The enduring pandemic has forced the world to develop new ways of working. What once were casual chats at water coolers are now endless WhatsApp group message chains, while cubicles and corner offices have been replaced by everyone's home kitchen table... not to mention your children doing (or not doing!) their schoolwork beside you. The good news is that the health crisis should begin to ease in the coming months, and most of us will be able to return to the office. Still, nothing will ever be the same after the taste we've had of — and the innovation sparked by — our remote reality.

This edition of Work → In Progress explores how the new work environment is bound to be an ever and always evolving process:

ARTIFICIAL ATTENDANCE Zoom filters, avatars at online conferences … Microsoft is taking virtual meetings to the next level with its development of holograms. Its newest platform, Mesh, aims to facilitate "mixed reality," allowing employees from all over the world to meet via "holoportation." In a post-pandemic world where offices reopen, Mesh could change the need for workers to be based in a specific city, as these holograms mean rays of light simulate their body in real-time and allow them to interact with objects and people in a physical space far away from their headsets.

HOME OFFICE BURNOUT In the past 12 months, the pandemic has turned our homes upside down. Usually a safe haven free of work-related stress, we have turned our spare rooms, kitchen tables and (no point hiding it) couches into workstations. Our work life has invaded family and free time, sometimes physically occupying its spaces. No wonder that home office burnout is on the rise, especially in developing countries where a pandemic-free life still isn't on the horizon, like Brazil. According to Estadão, an increasing number of Brazilians report chronic stress, rising anxiety, and lack of joy in their homes, and burnout diagnoses are on the rise, particularly among young women. And what's worse, "The pandemic has created a tunnel where there are no alternatives and the light is still very far away," the paper said.

THE ODD JOB

TRICKY BIOMETRICS Using biometrics — the biological data unique to each of us — in the workplace has been on the rise for some time, as employees identify themselves with everything from fingerprints to voice recognition to access company networks, data, applications and devices. Since the pandemic and contact tracing, this trend has been on the rise as a recent study shows the majority of Americans are in favor of company wearables that could benefit their health, security and safety. However, a recent article in Raconteur points out that people with disabilities such as hand or voice tremors or stutters need to be factored in right away to avoid excluding them from our future biometric world.

WATCH THIS WORD "Workspitality": a post-pandemic trend where hospitality merges with work and hotels use their spaces as co-working stations and rentable offices. The basic premise asks why would you work from home when you can work from a hotel. This took off in India first, with the lifting of travel restrictions creating a new trend of taking work-from-hotel vacations (nicknamed "workations"). Next stop "workspitality". Apparently, nothing is safe from work these days, even your holidays.

NAME AND SHAME "Foosball tables are cool but worker's rights are even better" announces the bio of the Instagram account @Balancetastartup ("Rat out your start-up"). Created in December 2020, it already has amassed more than 183,000 followers and has been the talk of the French entrepreneurial world as it openly shares stories of workplace harassment and mistreatment at trendy young companies. As start ups proliferate, so does the problem of companies too small to have a proper HR department. These kinds of social media accounts are one way to keep these companies in check. And, according to French daily Les Echos, this one is planning to eventually offer consulting on worker's rights.

STAT DU JOUR

VIRTUAL INSANITY Being left out of team WhatsApp chats, not being included in a Microsoft Teams session, being dropped from the weekly Zoom apero ... From French media Welcome to the Jungle to The New York Times, there are more and more reports of increased paranoia among remote workers. When a suggestion on Slack is left unanswered, it is possible to read a lot between the lines and imagine all kinds of slights. Small moments are becoming amplified when all the communication is virtual. Maybe you need to change your virtual background!

THE GIG IS UP Uber recently made global headlines by announcing its decision to implement a minimum hourly wage, pensions and vacation time to 70,000 UK drivers. The decision, however, comes from a recent court ruling imposing these new policies on the US-based giant and according to The Guardian, drivers are skeptical. One driver told the British daily, "The court ruling said one thing, Uber said another thing," as the company immediately told drivers that the new wage would only begin from the time they accept their first trip to and end when the last passenger is dropped off despite the ruling's specification that waiting time should be taken into account. "It should be from the time you log on," said the interviewed driver. "It's like any other job: you're paid for the time you're behind your desk, whether or not there's work you can do there."

RETURNING HOME A recent study from Moroccan research institut Intelcia found that 62% of the African diaspora's university graduates and professionals want to be entrepreneurs back in Africa, and around 40% would move back immediately if given the chance. One Senegalese entrepreneur told Francophone African news website Jeune Afrique, "I returned to Dakar because I was frustrated with the lack of opportunities in France. And I wanted to contribute to the development of my country." With lots of niches that have yet to be filled in many markets around the continent, many feel it's the perfect opportunity to become industry leaders in their home country.


See more from Work → In Progress here