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遠程辦公:隔離工作是怎樣的感受

What if you never saw your colleagues in person again?
遠程辦公:隔離工作是怎樣的感受

Throughout my career I’ve worked with people that I’ve never met in person. In theory, I could spend an entire day without meeting another human face-to-face.

我的整個職業生涯都在跟那些素未謀面的人打交道。從理論上講,我可以一整天都不跟任何人面對面接觸。

But could this kind of self-imposed isolation become standard working practice in the future?

但這種自愿的隔離是否會成為未來的標準工作方式呢?

Studies show that in the US, the number of telecommuters rose 115% between 2005 and 2017. And in early 2015, around 500,000 people used Slack, the real-time chat room programme, daily. By last September, that number soared to over 6 million.

研究表明,美國遠程辦公的人數在2005至2017年間增長115%。2015年初,約有50萬人每天使用實時聊天軟件Slack。到去年9月,這一數字飆升到600多萬。

In 2017 a Gallup poll revealed that 43% of 15,000 Americans say they spend at least some of their time working remotely, a 4% rise from 2012. And a 2015 YouGov study found that 30% of UK office workers say they feel more productive when they work outside their workplace.

蓋洛普在2017年對1.5萬美國人進行的一項調查發現,43%的受訪者表示他們至少有一部分時間在遠程辦公,較2012年增加4%。YouGov在2015年進行的研究發現,有30%的英國辦公室員工認為,在辦公場所之外工作的效率更高。

How would we feel if we never had to work with another person face-to-face again? Would we care? Have things gone so far that we might not even notice?

如果不必與其他人面對面工作,你會作何感想?我們是否會在乎這種情況?當前的形勢是否已經發展到我們根本注意不到這種變化的程度?

Our drift towards working alone could have a significant impact on our physical and mental health, the way our companies run and even shape our cities. We spoke to a group of experts to find out what they think.

這種獨自工作的潮流可能會對我們的身心健康、企業的運作方式甚至城市的面貌產生重要影響。我們與一些專家展開對話,希望了解他們內心的想法。
 

超過40%的英國勞動者感覺遠程辦公效率更高,而美國的遠程辦公勞動者在12年間增長了115%

What could a human-free workplace look like?

沒有人的工作場所是什么樣子?


In 2018 it seems we’re in the middle of a work-from-home era of pyjamas and Slack. But futurists envisage something a lot more science-fiction in decades to come. The working day could start, for instance, by uploading our schedules and daily goals into virtual reality doppelgangers - representations of ourselves that we then dispatch to online meetings in our stead.

在2018年,我們似乎正處于穿著睡衣、用著Slack "在家工作"的時代。但根據未來學家的設想,今后幾十年可能會出現更多類似科幻小說里的東西。例如,在開始一天的工作時,可以把每天的日程和目標上傳給虛擬現實化身——這是我們的代表,之后讓它們代替我們去參加在線會議。

“My digitally-engineered persona might be interacting with clients and employees and customers around the world simultaneously,” says James Canton, CEO of the Institute for Global Futures, and who has advised three White House administrations on future workplace trends. “I can direct it and it can have a certain degree of autonomous decisions.”

"我的數字化角色或許可以同時與全球各地的客戶、員工和顧客進行互動。"全球未來機構(Institute for Global Futures)首席執行官詹姆斯·坎頓(James Canton)說,他曾為三屆白宮政府就未來辦公場所的趨勢提供過建議,"我可以指揮它,它也可以獲得一定程度的自主決策權。"

He’s working with scientists to develop these online bots: “On the back end, there will be massive supercomputer capabilities and The Cloud.” But they’ll look like whatever we want them to look like: “Kids may want to choose a dinosaur, guys might want to choose Emma Stone,” says Canton.

他正在與科學家合作開發這些在線機器人:"后端會有巨大的超級計算能力和云。"但是它們會按照我們的意愿隨意變換樣子:"孩子們可能想要恐龍,而男人可能會選擇艾瑪·斯通(Emma Stone)。"坎頓說。

Office workers are already happily abandoning their face-to-face interactions in droves, in favour of what’s widely referred to as flexible working, or telecommuting. But if human beings “are such social creatures” then won't sitting hunched over glowing screens all day risk damaging our mental health, or even impair our emotional intelligence?

辦公室員工已經很高興地放棄了面對面的互動,轉而支持靈活工作制或遠程辦公。但是,如果人類"真的是群居動物",那么整天坐在那里盯著發光的屏幕,難道不會損害我們的心理健康,甚至破壞我們的情商嗎?

What does working alone do to your mind?

獨自工作會對你的內心產生何種影響?


Some believe the increase in telecommuting will inevitably lead to employee ennui at best, and a rise in depression at worst.

一些人認為遠程辦公的增多必然會導致員工倦怠,在最糟糕的情況下,甚至會引發抑郁。

Faith Popcorn, a futurist who has advised giants like AT&T, IBM and Coca-Cola on the future of the workforce says, “you’re going to have to go somewhere. Find some amusement.” And that diversion could involve companies sanctioning staff down time to watch YouTube videos or listen to music or even going on trips, she says. Still, Popcorn believes a human-free, remote-only workplace will inevitably prompt some employees to go on “fantasy adventures”: that could meaning anything from extra holidays to retreats to immersive VR worlds to even pornography addiction.

菲斯·帕帕考恩(Faith Popcorn)是一名未來學家,還曾就未來的勞動力問題為AT&T、IBM和可口可樂公司提供過建議。他們說:"你必須到某個地方娛樂了一下。"她表示,這種變化可能會導致公司批準員工停下手中的工作去看看YouTube視頻,聽聽音樂,甚至出門旅行。不過,帕帕考恩還是認為,一個沒有人的遠程工作場所將不可避免地促使一些員工進行"奇幻冒險":這可能意味著各種各樣的活動,例如享受額外的假期、沉浸在虛擬現實世界里,甚至對色情內容成癮。

“For some people, (telecommuting) is not a good fit – the lack of informal interactions with co-workers throughout the day wears on them,” says David Ballard, a doctor at the American Psychological Association who oversees its Center for Organizational Excellence. “Or the lack of structure, when they’re left to their own devices at home or in a remote setting. It’s harder to stay organised.”

"對有些人來說,(遠程辦公)不太合適——白天與同事之間缺乏非正式的交流,會讓他們感到厭煩。" 作為美國心理學協會組織卓越中心負責人的大衛·巴拉德(David Ballard)醫生說,"或者,當他們在家里或者其他地方使用自己的設備遠程工作的時候,也有可能缺乏條理。這就更難保持井井有條。"

And while sending holographic likenesses of ourselves along to board meetings sounds pretty fun, going through the cycles of the workweek entirely alone might not. It will likely make it harder for workers and their managers to build any sort of sense of collaborative team.

雖然讓我們自己的全息形象去參加董事會議聽起來很有趣,但獨自一人從事整整一周的工作恐怕就沒那么有趣了。這可能會使員工和他們的管理者更加難以建立任何形式的團隊合作意識。

“It certainly makes it more challenging to build that camaraderie when you’re not physically there sharing meals at a lunch room – that does change the dynamic,” Ballard adds.

"如果你沒有親身到餐廳與大家共進午餐,想要建立同志之間的友情就會面臨更多挑戰——這確實會改變你的動態。" 巴拉德補充道。

There’s nothing that can really replace face-to-face interaction and connection. The things you pick up from meeting someone in person – such as body language, intonation, or the intuition that senses when someone’s upset or something’s off in a conversation – are the advantages that humans use at work that technology cannot.

沒有什么能代替面對面的交流和聯系。你在與某人見面時所能接收的信號——比如談話中的肢體語言、語調,或者感到某人心煩意亂或某事出現問題的直覺——都是人類可以在工作中使用的優勢,但科技卻不具備這種優勢。

Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics, a firm that specialises in analysing emerging workplace strategies, says emotional intelligence is declining. “In part because people are on their computers instead of out on the playground.”

Global Workplace Analytics是一家專門分析職場新興策略的公司,其總裁凱特·李斯特(Kate Lister)表示,人們的情商正在下降。"部分原因是人們沉迷于電腦,而脫離了現實。"

A steady drop in emotional intelligence (EQ) has been tracked by researchers over several years: back in 2010, a University of Michigan study found that university students show 40% less empathy than students a couple decades ago, less frequently agreeing with statements like “I sometimes try to understand my friends better by imagining how things look from their perspective" and "I often have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me."

研究人員已經對情商(EQ)的穩定下降展開了多年的跟蹤:早在2010年,密歇根大學的一項研究就發現,那時的大學生同理心較20年前低了40%。他們不太同意下面這樣的說法:例如,"我有時試圖更好地理解我的朋友,想象如何從他們的角度看問題"和"我經常心軟,關心那些沒有我幸運的人的感受。"

But it's developing this type of emotional intelligence that will be key to navigating jobs of the future, especially if those jobs will require being surrounded by fewer humans and more technology.

但這卻在形成一種對未來工作至關重要的情商,尤其是當這些工作牽扯更少的人和更多的技術時。

The argument against working from home

在家工作也有不利因素


At first glance it looks like firms will save millions and stand only to gain from granting more employees flexible working. They can potentially save massive amounts of money: according to Global Workplace Analytics, each company could stand to save $11,000 per employee per year, from cost savings in areas like property, turnover and electricity bills.

乍一看,允許更多員工靈活工作,似乎可以幫助企業節省數百萬美元,對他們非常有利。他們可以節省大量的資金:根據Global Workplace Analytics的數據,每家公司每名員工每年可以因此節省1.1萬美元,在物業、營業額和電費等領域節省費用。

But the reality of managing an entire workforce that are out-of-office could have some significant unforeseen costs. Last year, IBM reversed its position on flexible working when it called employees back to offices in-person, after stating in 2007 that 40% of its 400,000 employees no longer reported to a traditional office. Yahoo did something similar in 2013; a leaked memo to Yahoo staff was reported to suggest that some of the best decisions and insights at the firm came from "hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings in the office."

但是,要管理一大批不在辦公室的員工,卻可能產生一些數額不菲且不可預見的成本。去年,IBM轉變了在彈性工作制上的立場,將員工召回辦公室工作。而在此之前,該公司曾在2007年宣布其40萬員工中有40%不再向傳統辦公室匯報工作。雅虎也在2013年采取了類似的措施;據報道,一封泄露出來的雅虎員工備忘錄顯示,該公司的一些最佳決策和見解來自"走廊和餐廳里的討論,與新人會面,以及在辦公室里臨時召開的團隊會議"。

Though there isn’t yet much hard data that suggests firms will lose any money by letting a majority of its workers telecommute, the persistent fear is that these workers might end up being less efficient or loyal. After all, “you don’t want employees running their own start-ups on company time,” Ballard says.

盡管目前還沒有太多的數據表明,企業會因為讓大多數員工遠程辦公而損失金錢,但長期的擔憂在于,這些員工的效率和忠誠度最終可能下降。畢竟,"你不希望員工在工作時間里經營自己的創業公司。"巴拉德說。

Still, the rise of the “gig economy”  has created a surge of skilled freelancers and remote workers. Walk into any trendy, Fairtrade café in any major city and no doubt you’ll find waves of hip, tattooed professionals hunched over Macbooks and drip coffees. But monitoring this out of office workforce and keeping tabs on their productivity is tricky. Although companies like Humanyze, a start-up in Boston, have developed employee ID badges that track biometric data from human employees, like physical movements, voice tone and length of conversation which could help.

不過,"零工經濟"的興起造就了一批熟練的自由職業者和遠程工作人員。走進任何一個大城市的時尚咖啡廳,你肯定都會發現有很多有紋身的時尚專業人士邊喝咖啡邊用Macbook辦公。然而,想要監督辦公室之外的工作人員及其工作效率卻并非易事。但像Humanyze(一家波士頓創業公司)這樣的企業已經開發出了員工ID卡,可以追蹤員工的生物識別數據,比如肢體動作、語音聲調和對話時長,從而為企業提供幫助。

Preparing managers for the transition

讓管理者為過渡做好準備


More people working from home is an inevitability, if recent statistics are to believed. And the onus will be on managers to adapt to the new environment.

如果最近的統計數據可信的話,必然會有更多在家工作的人。管理人員也必須適應新的環境。

“Part of the problem is that we still manage people the way we did in the Industrial Revolution, like when people were working on an assembly line – if they see you, they think you’re being productive,” says Ballard of the American Psychological Association. “We need to train managers and supervisors how to better manage a remote workforce.”

"問題的部分原因在于,我們仍然像在工業革命那樣管理人們,就好像人們在流水線上工作一樣——如果他們能看到你,就會認為你很有生產力。" 美國心理學協會的巴拉德說,"我們需要培訓管理人員和主管,讓他們知道如何更好地管理遠程工作的員工。"

How do they do that? Well, in 2015, Harvard Business Review wrote that many companies that allow telecommuting “focus too much on technology and not enough on process. This is akin to trying to fix a sports team’s performance by buying better equipment.” There needs to be emphasis on basics like communication and coordination, HBR argues.

究竟應該怎么做?《哈佛商業評論》(Harvard Business Review)在2015年發表文章稱,很多允許遠程辦公的公司都"過于關注技術,但卻對流程關注不足。這就好比通過購買更好的設備來提高運動隊的表現一樣。"《哈佛商業評論》認為,應該重視溝通和協調等基本要素。

That means that managers must still able to explain complex ideas to employees, even in a virtual setting. HBR mentions one exercise in which subject A describes an image to subject B over the phone. Then subject B must attempt to describe the description via email to subject C – and sure enough, subject C’s interpretation often ends up wonky.

這意味著,即使在虛擬環境中,管理者也必須能夠向員工解釋復雜的想法?!豆鹕虡I評論》提到了一種練習,在這個練習中,A通過電話向B描述一幅圖畫,然后由B嘗試用電子郵件向C描述這幅圖畫——當然,C的解釋通常都靠不住。

It is also suggested that managers also be readily available to all employees in all time zones to build trust and efficiency.

此外,管理者還必須對所有時區的員工作出響應,以此建立信任,提高效率。

And that's the real challenge that could develop, one that's more probable (or at least more pressing) than working alone and being surrounded by talking holograms.

這才是真正的挑戰,與獨自一人工作,并與周圍的各種全息圖像展開對話相比,這更有可能發生(或者說,至少更加迫切)。

An already blurred line separating work and not work is becoming increasingly blurred as working remotely becomes more popular. We might end up with the freedom to work where we want, but those technologies that grant us mobility will simultaneously chain us more to our jobs, as we become instantly and freely accessible, regardless of time or place.

隨著遠程工作越來越流行,工作與不工作之間原本就已經模糊的界限變得更加模糊。我們或許最終可以獲得想要的工作自由,但那些賦予我們流動性的技術同時也會把我們更多地束縛在自己的工作上,我們會因此而隨時待命,無論身處何時何地。
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