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Emerging from the Pandemic

The future of work is now

The pandemic has changed so much in our world, not least of which has been a seismic shift in work culture, as many of us have spent the past year working from home. Although in many parts of the world we are still in the thick of the pandemic, the rollout of vaccines is allowing us to think about a return to some level of normality in the second half of the year. And, so, I’ve been thinking and reading a lot about what this means for PLOS as we do – or in many cases, don’t – return to our physical office spaces.

The first key evolution in my own thinking is how we conceptualize and talk about our workforce model. In the past – and in my post at the start of the pandemic last year – I talked about “remote” working and employees. While this term correctly denotes that one person is physically separate from others, I’ve come to realize that we nearly always use this from our perspective as someone in the office with the embedded implication that we are a first-class citizen in the center-of-our-universe. This mindset usually assumes that the “remote” person is somehow less important and carries all the responsibility for communicating with the rest of the team. At PLOS, we’ve moved to talking about a “distributed” organization and teams: we all work together towards shared goals even though we are all physically separated. And because each of us is “remote” from the others, we carry equal responsibility to communicate and coordinate with the rest of the team. This feels like a critical shift in mindset for me, especially as PLOS hires new team members across the globe this year.

Nearly 12 months into our enforced experiment, the limitations and benefits of working in this way are much clearer. (Of course, we have to remember that there is a big difference between a functional, fully distributed organization and being quarantined with the stress and uncertainty of a global pandemic.) At PLOS, it’s evident that a hybrid model of distributed and office-based work is here to stay, supported by modern digital connectivity. As we look to the future, our starting point is to reflect on what we’ve learned over the past year: the vast majority of our work can be done successfully in fully virtual form (indeed, PLOS’s 2020 results are the best since 2013). Many of our staff have found that they like working from home (WFH) and are more productive, although it’s important for us not to underestimate the ways in which some, notably parents and women especially, have been negatively impacted. Plenty of independent research mirrors our experience and backs up the potential benefits of more WFH both for employees and organizations.

Please select this link to read the complete article from The Scholarly Kitchen.

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