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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Podcast: Future of the Office

 How well did working at home really accomplish things? 

What’s the Future of the Office?

Wharton’s Peter Cappelli talks about his new book, ‘Future of the Office: Work from Home, Remote Work, and the Hard Choices We All Face.’

Audio Player ... of podcast

Wharton management professor Peter Cappelli is the author of the new book, The Future of the Office: Work from Home, Remote Work, and the Hard Choices We All Face. Cappelli, who has for decades studied the forces shaping and changing the workplace, says the choices employees and employers must make about the future of work could be among the most important they face.

Brett LoGiurato, senior editor at Wharton School Press, sat down with Cappelli to talk about his new book. They discussed work during the COVID-19 pandemic, the complications with return-to-office hybrid models, and how employees and employers can make the best choices about what to do.

An edited transcript of the conversation follows. 

Brett LoGiurato: Could you share your overall message about what you believe is at stake for the future of the office?

Peter Cappelli: I don’t think it’s going to surprise many people to get the sense of how big an issue this is, about whether we go back to the office or not. If you think about the value of commercial real estate, what happens if we don’t need offices and all the supporting services and the little businesses and restaurants that support offices? And commuting? All those sorts of things matter. In addition to whether this might be better for employees, one of the things we know is that not everybody agrees that they want to work from home. There is the issue of whether it’s actually going to work for the employers, and that’s not completely clear.

Part of the message of the book is that we don’t know how well things worked during the pandemic’s work-from-home phase. A lot of organizations said that things were fine. A lot of employees said they got their own work done. But closer examination is suggesting that maybe it wasn’t quite so great and things didn’t work quite as well, and more to the point, there were a lot of things that were unique about the pandemic that are not going to carry over afterward.

For example, most people felt a special effort to pull together and try to get things done [because] we were keeping businesses together and keeping our jobs together. Is that going to continue afterward? Post-pandemic is unlikely to look much like what happened during the pandemic. We know a fair bit about that situation because we’ve studied it. We’ve studied telework for quite a while. That is regular businesses operating more or less as they did, with some people working at home and some people working in the office. The results there were not as nice as you might expect. People working remotely don’t do as well, and their careers don’t do as well, either.    ... ' 

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