2024 Calendar
TechTalk Daily

Why Back-to-Office Policies Won’t Help Big Tech Sell AI: The Remote Work Contradiction

Why Back-to-Office Policies Won’t Help Big Tech Sell AI: The Remote Work Contradiction

By: Daniel W. Rasmus for Serious Insights

There is a growing tension between Big Tech’s pre-pandemic promotion of remote work and its current back-to-office efforts. The shift in workplace dynamics and management strategies forces buyers to question the tech industry’s credibility. This reversal not only contradicts years of marketing collaborative technologies but also threatens Big Tech’s position in an evolving AI-driven market. Based on this conflict between technological capabilities and traditional management approaches, Rasmus suggests that embracing flexible, commitment-based work models may be crucial for tech giants to maintain their innovative edge and market leadership.

Business Insider reported that up to 50% of Dell Workers have chosen not to return to the office (Business Insider) even with career advancement truncation and in-office attendance monitoring for those selecting the “hybrid” work option.

Many other businesses are also struggling to entice people back to the office. It’s a particularly bad look for Big Tech, however, that for years before COVID lockdowns, it touted the flexibility, productivity, and employee experience benefits of remote work facilitated by technology.

I personally wrote dozens of papers, presented to thousands of customers, and created immersive experiences while at Microsoft, most of which made the argument that using collaborative technology was just as good as being in the office, if not better. The Dutch office went so far as to take the Freelance Planet scenario, one of four future scenarios my team crafted to explore technology futures, and asked for my help to implement it.

The key Dutch office story was that people did not need to be in the office to be productive. When people were in the office, it was no longer a traditional office; it was a choice, a remote workplace that offered an experience. The country manager, however, often said he would rather have his people near customers, avoiding the long commutes into Amsterdam from outlying areas.

Why Back-to-Office Policies Won't Help Big Tech Sell AI. Smiling CGI woman at work.

Back-to-office mandates, or coercions, suggest that the promise of IT-facilitated collaboration was disingenuous. It tells customers that their investments in collaborative platforms are not what they thought they were. They weren’t meant as a tool for creating remote team cohesion but rather a more mundane extension of what happens after people leave a conference room.

As the author of content touting remote, hybrid and road warrior work, I still stand by my words. The issue is not one of technology’s failure. I just got off a Google Meet with a potential partner who found a global market during COVID for a product that would once have been considered an in-room experience. He can now facilitate simulation-based improvement experiences in Australia from the UK because of remote collaboration technology.

I have not worked in an office for nearly 15 years. I collaborate with people all over the world. Sure, I still travel to conferences to speak and to client sites to consult, but not as much as before. I offer advice via video conferences. Some conferences that I once attended remain but have become completely virtual, including the vendor showcases.

While remote work may not prove ideal for all types of work (I hear you retail, healthcare, manufacturing, extractive industry, and service workers), it does work for most tech jobs. Dell’s motivation for bringing people back to the office isn’t about the failures of technology; it’s a worry about what people are doing on the margins of their time, which comes from a management perspective, not an experience reality.

I have suggested to all who will listen that the answer is not moving people back to the office but adopting commitment-based work as the approach to measurement. Agree to commitments like the outcome and the timeframe, even the collaborative model, and hold people accountable for following through with the commitment. Where and when the work takes place doesn’t matter as long as it is delivered with quality and at the time promised.

Commitment-based work can be set in as small a chunk of work or as broad, depending on the type of work. Unfortunately, it requires different management skills and a more collaborative, empathetic, and trusting attitude than many managers possess. It is easier to “manage” people when you see them than to trust them on their own.

Commitment-based work raises several issues…

To learn more about what issues are raised by commitment-based work and how all this information is tied to AI, read the rest of the article: Why Back-to-Office Policies Won’t Help Big Tech Sell AI: The Remote Work Contradiction


About the author:

Daniel W. Rasmus, the author of Listening to the Future, is a strategist and industry analyst who has helped clients put their future in context. Rasmus uses scenarios to analyze trends in society, technology, economics, the environment, and politics in order to discover implications used to develop and refine products, services, and experiences. He leverages this work and methodology for content development, workshops, and for professional development.

Interested in AI? Check here to see what TechTalk AI Impact events are happening in your area. Also, be sure to check out all upcoming TechTalk Events here.