Defining The World Of Work

September 29, 2022 nói qua on facebook share on Twitter chia sẻ on LinkedIn tóm tắt on Reddit Print Story Like

While office buildings traditionally have been at the center of work for many people, factors including the COVID-19 pandemic have forced employers to reconsider the look of their workspaces.

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Three professors from the University of Cincinnati"s Carl H. Lindner College of Business discuss the state of in-person work, what’s lost when workers aren’t together in a physical space và how employers are adapting their workspaces lớn modern needs.

The professors are:


From left, Jane Sojka, Suzanne Masterson & Michael Fry.

Masterson: There’s a lot of value in collaboration opportunities & building relationships. When we talk about people working together in person, we think about all the chance encounters that people can have in the workplace, just running into each other, building relationships outside of the typical line of command or organizational chart.

There are also a lot of opportunities for shared information that aren’t always intentional. By talking to lớn people without always having a purpose, or being in meetings with people where there are some other side conversations going on, sometimes a side benefit is we hear some information that maybe wasn’t being given lớn us directly but directly impacts our work, helping us be more prod1art.vntive or enabling us to địa chỉ cửa hàng ideas to that other conversation.

Sojka: It’s the energy of having people in the room and the enthusiasm in the building. It’s contagious. You can’t get that over the internet.

What types of jobs benefit most from in-person interactions?

Masterson: When you have work that brings together different disciplines & different ideas, or when you’ve got work that requires collaboration and creativity, those are the types of jobs where it really helps to lớn have interpersonal connections and face-to-face interactions. When you’re trying to have collaboration or brainstorm, it can be more difficult in a virtual or hybrid setting because it’s harder to know when to take turns. It’s harder khổng lồ build on each other’s ideas. It’s harder khổng lồ see the nuances và facial expressions và pay attention to lớn all the cues people are giving.

When you’ve got people together around a table, in a space face-to-face, there’s a lot of that sharing & additional communication that goes on beyond just the verbal message. When you think about those kinds of tasks that require collaboration, creativity or coming to lớn a decision where there are a lot of conflicting ideas, it really helps to be in person.

Sojka: In sales, it is our bread & butter khổng lồ be in front of people because the whole point is building a trusting relationship, and you vị that face to lớn face. In fact, there was a piece of research I saw early on with COVID, and it said if you even had a small face-to-face encounter, lượt thích coffee for half an hour, it’s easier lớn build up a trusting relationship online than with none at all.

Masterson: When we think about grocery stores & restaurants that did a lot of delivery and takeout during the pandemic, they still had to lớn have people working, stocking the shelves, filling the orders, cooking the food. There are a lot of different kinds of jobs in which it would be impossible khổng lồ only work from home. And, unfortunately, a lot of those jobs are undervalued because it seems like they’re easy jobs or they don’t need as m1art.vnh ed1art.vnation or skill requirements, but they’re vital to the economy. We really saw that during the pandemic. We put a lot of emphasis on knowledge (white-collar) jobs và technology jobs, & those are important jobs, but it’s an apples and oranges comparison.

Think about the kinds of jobs và industries and organizations that are the backbone of keeping the services that all those other folks need — grocery stores, restaurants, services, tự động hóa mechanics. All those types of things are important to lớn keep everything going.


Jane Sojka, PhD, professor-ed1art.vnator and kinh doanh undergraduate program director, Department of Marketing

Sojka: I think it’s harder to build a trusting relationship because all I can see is your face. I can’t shake your hand. You don’t have a lot of cues. Credibility is 58% body language, 35% how you say it, & only 7% is what you say. That comes from Fran Hauser’s book, “The Myth of the Nice Girl.” Conversely, companies were happy because they saved a ton of money on travel. Especially if they were customers they had already worked with — we’ve built a trusting relationship, we’ve gone to lớn dinner, we know each other — & then you switch it over khổng lồ online, that is m1art.vnh easier. If it was an already existing relationship, no big deal. I already know who you are. But brand new, it’s tougher.

Fry: What I think we may see is that there are less opportunities for what"s sometimes called serendipity. So, if I"m in analytics, you"re a journalism professor, and we just happen khổng lồ show up at lunch one day, và you happen khổng lồ mention that you"ve been trying to find a specific data set. And I"m like, “Oh, I know that.” Right? But in an online environment, that doesn"t happen. It"s going khổng lồ be tough lớn measure these things, but I bởi vì think there may be some loss of creativity just because we don"t have these accidental interactions where we"re just chatting and it turns out we"ve got a common interest — that would not come out on a Teams meeting where we"ve scheduled A, B & C.

Masterson: One of the biggest advantages of being in person is just the ability to see people consistently, see them across different situations & run into them both purposefully và incidentally. Those are the kind of encounters that build stronger relationships in the workplace, a stronger sense of belonging, a stronger sense of trust và more willingness to lớn be yourself in the workplace. I don’t think that requires 100% time in the office, but it does require some màn chơi of investment in being there and having those kinds of encounters.

Sojka: I think the pandemic was really hard emotionally on sales people. It’s one thing if you’re in data analytics, & your job is spending time in front of a computer. Sales people are “people people.” They love their customers. They took care of their customers. They enjoyed seeing their customers. It was really hard to lớn not be able lớn get in front of their customers và have lunch. I know the ones I’ve talked lớn have been very glad that things are opening up.

Sales reps are used khổng lồ wining và dining, building relationships, getting in front of the customers. & all of a sudden, in many cases, you’re presenting khổng lồ a blank screen. We’re used to lớn being in front of people, so you can read their reactions, you can read their body toàn thân language. If you’re on the internet, & people have shut their screens off, you can’t even read the body toàn thân language. One sales rep described it as talking to crickets. You have no clue. I think that was really hard from a business perspective. Of course, they learned how to vày it. Companies are all doing fine. Sales reps I’m in to1art.vnh with are all doing fine. They adapted, but I think emotionally it was very hard.

Masterson: Workplaces are one of the only places we really encounter people who are different from us. If we’re religious, we tend khổng lồ go lớn church or synagogue or the mosque with people who are like us. We tend lớn live in neighborhoods with people lượt thích us. We tend to end up in a lot of different situations with people who are like us. Và whether it’s diversity of thought, disciplines or of ethnicities & religions, the workplace is one of the key places where we encounter people who are different from us in a meaningful way. And I worry that as we thua kém that, we become more isolated from people who are different from us. We’re not as exposed lớn new ideas và different ways of thinking, and I think that’s a big loss.

I worry that the more we become isolated working at home, the more we become rigid in “us versus them” thinking. Traditionally, workplaces have been a place where for 40 hours a week, you’re around a lot of different people, you’re exposed khổng lồ different ideas, you get to lớn trust them in different settings, & it opens people up khổng lồ different ways of thinking.

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Fry: I run our Center for Business Analytics where we have 28 companies that are members. They’re all struggling with this. Everybody from P&G and Kroger to lớn Great American và Fifth Third, all of them are trying lớn figure this out. All of them believe there is value, but there is a trade-off. There’s a value khổng lồ having happy employees, và they’re finding out that employees are happier if they can spend at least part of their time working remotely.

Sojka: The mạng internet is not going away. What we’ve learned is there is a lot of business that can be done perfectly fine over Zoom, and it’s going to save money. It’s a win-win because the companies don’t have to lớn spend on travel, sales people don’t have lớn spend time away from home, and the business is cond1art.vnted. That’s not going away, but you still need lớn have that personal relationship khổng lồ cond1art.vnt the business online.

Sojka: For sales, a lot of them did away with their offices because, once again, it’s a cost-saving measure. If you’re an enterprise sales rep, you shouldn’t be in the office anyway. You should be with your customer. If you’re either with the customer or working from home, they save money on office space. Particularly for sales, you’re likely lớn see fewer and fewer office buildings. Even inside sales where you had everybody in a bullpen kind of, even a lot of those they had lớn go remote, và once they went remote, they realized this is working just fine và cheap. Even those are staying remote.

Masterson: A financial planner I know has moved from office space to lớn office space, and finally just said, “I don’t need this. The pandemic has shown me that I don’t need to lớn spend this kind of money, which enables me lớn save money & also to lớn save clients money.” In terms of commercial real estate, I think we hear about organizations trying to decide as leases come up, “Do I need all this space? What vì I want to vị with it?”

Sojka: I don’t think the is back yet. It’s coming, but now that companies, especially with existing customers — we know you, we don’t need khổng lồ go khổng lồ see you every month — those meetings will still be done online. However, the other ones, the wining và dining, and, “Hey, let’s get to lớn know each other. You can trust me.” That kind of thing, I think that’s picking back up again.


Suzanne Masterson, PhD, associate dean, Faculty, Research & Lindner Culture, và professor, Department of Management

Masterson: I think a lot of it is going lớn be dependent on the company, what industry it’s in & what its particular needs are. I would hope that we have learned a lot during the pandemic as well as learned from the research coming out about mở cửa space versus offices versus cubicles. I think the ideal office space of the future is going to have a number of different configurable spaces in it that can be used for multiple purposes. There will be some private offices, and people who are always in private offices because they are doing “deep-thought work,” & it makes the most sense for them khổng lồ be there. I think there are going lớn be more open collaboration spaces where people can congregate throughout the day, they can come out of their private spaces và meet, mô tả ideas and have those spaces built in versus always trying to find a conference room. You’re going khổng lồ have small gathering spaces, và I think you’re going khổng lồ have cubicles or open spaces that are “hoteling” where people can come in và work for the day, but they don’t need it five days a week.

Having just done a tour of the Digital Futures building, I think that’s an example of a space where they’re trying to bởi vì some of that. There are labs & offices, but there’s lots of different kinds of small meeting places, congregating spaces. You see that in our building here in the College of Business as well.

Masterson: Several colleagues & I cond1art.vnted a study of a group of employees moving from individual cubicles lớn open-space. One of the things that came out of this study was that the employees were very worried about being able to hear each other’s conversations before they went into this space. Afterward, they said, “You know, it actually turned out khổng lồ be a positive because there were conversations I was not part of, but when I heard a little bit of it, realized I should be a part of it. I turned around, joined the conversation, and in fact it solved a problem for all of us even more quickly than we would have before.” That’s not going lớn apply to all work situations, but it is a benefit of having those chance encounters, sharing information and building relationships over time.

There are definitely times & contexts where open space makes a lot of sense. If you have a project team that is working collaboratively, if you have people who are working in agile work environments, a lot of times having everyone in the same space working together, overhearing each other’s ideas, being able lớn jump up và quickly join a meeting and then go back khổng lồ work, it is great. But it’s not the only kind of space those folks need. They often need private spaces to lớn go lớn for their “deep-thought work.” There might be meeting rooms you need for when a subgroup needs to lớn talk và not interrupt the other people in the group.

So xuất hiện space definitely has some advantages over short periods of time, but to lớn be the only space for a person to work in brings some negatives with it as well. And, as we saw in the pandemic, it’s hard khổng lồ bring people into an xuất hiện space when they would have lớn be masked the whole time or worried about whether they could possibly be infecting each other. So private offices that are able lớn be closed offer a lot of advantages.


Michael Fry, PhD, professor of operations, business analytics & information systems & academic director of the Center for Business Analytics

Fry: We often try lớn force the person khổng lồ the work environment rather than adapting the work environment lớn the person. Some of the things we’re seeing that match some of the hypotheses made by workplace design experts, is that control of your work environment actually matters. Control is something people like. In statistics, there is a concept known as “the flaw of averages.” When you thiết kế a system to lớn be comfortable for the “average person,” then that system might not actually meet the preference of any one individual because no one is exactly “average.” and so everyone is unhappy. Most people who have had a significant other know this. If you nói qua a household, somebody likes it warm; somebody likes it cold. If we mix the thermostat to lớn 68 degrees, if that’s the average of what we both like, now we’re both unhappy. That’s the challenge. How vị we meet those individual preferences in a controlled environment? Also, people like light, but depending on if my desk is oriented this way versus oriented that way, that actually makes a big difference. Those are some things that are fairly easy to lớn change, just where our desk is. If I just turn your desk a little, it may expose you to lớn m1art.vnh more light than a different orientation, & that small change can make a big difference in how you perceive your work environment.

Masterson: One of the things that’s really important lớn people is being able lớn make the space their own in terms of identity; all the little tchotchkes people put around, what they put on the walls, the ability to lớn bring in all of your Marvel figurines. In that study we did with a company that was moving a couple of teams to mở cửa space, this was something a lot of people talked about before the move; they were in cubicles, and they said, "Look at all my figurines, look at my posters on the wall. Where am I going to put that, & how will my desk be different from anyone else’s? I spend a lot of time working at this desk. I want it to reflect my personality and who I want khổng lồ be in the workplace.” Not being able to vì that was a real concern for them. It really is a big giảm giá for people lớn be able khổng lồ express who they are in the workplace, & one of the ways we bởi that is in what we put into our space, how we decorate it, what we look at while we’re working.

Masterson: It makes it m1art.vnh more sterile. It makes it less lượt thích your space, and it becomes just a space khổng lồ park for a while. That can work occasionally, just like it can work occasionally to go to lớn Starb1art.vnks và sit down and work. But longer term, people like to have ownership over that space; it’s their space. Và there have been some qualitative studies that have shown that when you have this “hoteling” space, whoever comes in first, it’s theirs. People will leave markers on that space lớn try to discourage other people from taking it, even though it’s not assigned. They’ll leave a dirty coffee cup. They’ll leave something in the space that they think other people won’t use so it’s still theirs even though it’s not really theirs.


Jane Sojka, right, speaks with Suzanne Masterson.

Sojka: Our sales recruiters want face lớn face, & our students are afraid khổng lồ go face lớn face now. They’re used to lớn hiding behind a computer screen. In the pandemic, students are used to hiding behind a screen. They think, “Oh, it’s my resume.” Not in sales. They want to lớn see people. I tell my students, they’re going to fall in love with you, with your smile, with your eye contact, with the way you can start a conversation. And then they’ll say, “Oh, by the way, bởi you have a resume?” We are really pushing the interpersonal skills and that ability lớn talk lớn people face to lớn face. The recruiters want it. The students, they’re just really out of practice.

Masterson: One of the things that we vì is to căng thẳng the importance of those “soft skills.” Technical skills will get you the job and will get you so far, but when you think about moving into leadership or being a really s1art.vncessful employee, it is the soft skills that matter — being able lớn act respectfully, lớn have good communication skills, lớn build trust with your coworkers, customers & the other people you encounter. Talking about how important those skills are, stressing those skills & building them into our different courses is important for that next phase. They are just as important as the technology if you are going khổng lồ be working hybrid, because you need to understand how to communicate virtually, how to constr1art.vnt emails, how khổng lồ manage yourself in a virtual meeting. Both sets of skills are really important, but over time, research has shown that it’s the soft skills that really differentiate people that move up in organizations và into leadership. It’s those “emotional intelligence-type skills.”

Sojka: I’m teaching our students lớn be fluent in both. Fluent và comfortable in both online và in person.

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Masterson: Technology has changed the way generations like to communicate overall. It’s going lớn be interesting to lớn watch. I know a lot of our students who would vày almost anything not to lớn have khổng lồ answer the phone — send me a text, send me an email, Snapchat me, vì whatever you want, but don’t hotline me; I’m not going khổng lồ pick up the phone. You look at a generation or two above them who say phone conversations are how you reach people, & you leave the voicemail, and you wait for them to gọi you back. That’s just not the way we communicate anymore. It’s also understanding the differences between generations and looking for how soft skills can be found in new communication strategies or how we interpret those messages. I think we’re still negotiating some of those things when you have multiple generations in the workplace, và they are not necessarily understanding each other completely. The differences are what really lead us to lớn better solutions & better problem solving because we bring lots of different perspectives to lớn the table, and if we’re willing khổng lồ have meaningful conversations where there can be conflicts about the ideas but not conflict on people, that’s when you can get really creative, innovative solutions that take the best of all the ideas.