Distributed Work

After the remote working experiment of the past year, many companies are looking for guidance to implement a model that works for their organisation and their workforce. Any distributed model – whether its fully co-located, hybrid or fully remote – poses a series of design problems for homes and offices. In our new e-paper, we share Vitra's own model, along with the latest research and best-practices from thought leaders, individuals and ambitious organisations.

Distributed Work

E-Paper 05

How does the shift towards a distributed working model set in motion by the outbreak of the pandemic impact businesses and organisations in the mid to long term? This was the central question we explored during the Vitra Session on ‘Distributed Work’ that took place on 11 March. With contributions by designers, thought-leaders and industry experts, the event proved to be highly successful and managed to set a lively tone for the sessions to follow.

For more in-depth analyses and insights on the theme of ‘Distributed Work’, be sure to download the latest issue of our e-paper, which includes in-depth essays, inspiring interviews with thought and business leaders, scientific findings, helpful spatial solutions and much more inspiring content.

Redesigning work and spatial interactions

Distributed work can be carried out to varying degrees in companies. An important role here is played by the existing organisational structure, the aspirations of the employees, the functions they occupy and the associated tasks, as well as the corporate culture. Employers need to examine the structure of their organisation and review the tasks of their workforce to assess which distributed model can work best for their company and workforce. Many physical or manual activities, as well as those that require use of fixed equipment, cannot be done remotely. These include providing care, operating machinery, using lab equipment, and processing customer transactions in stores. In contrast, activities such as information gathering and processing, communicating with others, teaching and counselling, and coding data can more easily be done remotely.

Five reasons why distributed work is here to stay

Between May and November 2020, a survey was conducted with 22,500 working Americans (Barrero, Bloom & Davis, 2021) over the course of multiple Covid-19 waves to analyse the evolution of WFH arrangements during the lockdown phase and after. The findings suggest that even though the number of people working from home has decreased, the percentage working at their business premises is still far from pre-pandemic levels. The workers in the study report that their employers expect them to work 22% of all paid days from home, which would account for a 50% increase compared to pre-pandemic levels. A general shift in mindset can be observed with regard to remote working.
Companies were able to evaluate how well WFH (meaning ‘work from home’) has worked for their entire organisation
Multiple surveys suggest the WFH experience of 2020 has been positive and better than expected for a majority of firms and employees.
Substantial investments were made in equipment and infrastructure to facilitate WFH*
The average worker has invested over 14 hours and about $600 in equipment and infrastructure to facilitate WFH, while companies have made sizeable investments in back-end information technologies and equipment to support remote work.
Employees will be more reluctant to engage in some of the work-related social activities from pre-pandemic life
The fear of personal proximity will likely persist o some extent after the pandemic. Employees will most likely want to keep avoiding the subway, crowded lifts and indoor dining at restaurants.
The innovation rate for technologies that facilitate remote working has accelerated
WFH* has boosted the market for communication technology equipment and software and spurred research and innovation.
The stigma of remote working is fading
Perceptions about WFH* have improved since the pandemic. Both employers and employees are now more willing to engage in it.

Dropping out

A coffee machine’s perspective on the lack of serendipitous encounters during lockdown

Much emphasis was placed on employees during the lockdown, and how well they coped without the office. But what happened to the objects we left behind in the office? More than a mere beverage distributor, the coffee machine was a place for spontaneous social encounters, where we’d bump into our CEO between meetings, come across a colleague who had just returned from maternity leave, reunite with our ‘work spouses’ after the holidays, or learn about a new project from another department. We sure missed our coffee machines. But how well did they do without us?

Consulting & Planning Studio

With decades of experience, the Vitra Consulting & Planning Studio offers consultancy services and tools to assist partners, decision-makers and employees in rethinking their offices and transforming them into future-proof workspaces. A tried-and-tested process yields the foundations for a customised interior. Our teams will advise you on how to reinvent your offices with the focus on your employees’ needs and design improved work experiences for your entire organisation.

Discover our e-paper about the future of shared spaces