4.2.1. The office has a different purpose COVID-19 was the reason for the Decentralisation of the workplace. First, all the interviewees had to work completely remotely, and some people believed that they could never return to the office to do their job. According to most of the interviewees, their company currently has a hybrid work model implemented due to the impact of COVID-19, a type of flexible working where employees divide their time between the workplace and working remotely. The interviewees also think that the hybrid work model will still be used after the pandemic as employees noticed the advantages of a virtual work environment. Their companies are adjusting their policies to a new workplace due to COVID-19. Most of the interviewees have reported that they like the flexibility which the hybrid work model provides as it creates a better work-life balance. Additionally, some interviewees even state that the use of technology has the potential to replace all face-to-face meetings, however, this depends on the industry of the company. The following statement illustrates this transition of work environment: I think pre COVID-19 we were regularly face-to-face and in the office 3 or 4 days a week out of 5, it was the norm to have meetings in the office. You used to work from home by exception, maybe one day a week, something like that. When COVID-19 happened, we had a lockdown in the UK and basically told everyone to work from home unless they had a reason for coming into the office or our clients demanded an exceptional circumstance. We stopped all our face-to-face training and interventions and did as many as we could virtually using Google meet. 18 months later and we were in a little bit of a hybrid situation, whereby we started to go back to the office maybe 2 or 3 days a week, however, it is not mandatory. We think it is the right thing to keep the hybrid work model (Informant #5). At the same time, most interviewees reported that seeing each other in real life brings another value that you cannot have by only using virtual technology. However, with the current situation, people have seen the advantages and opportunities of advanced technology, being able to see each other and working together at a long distance has its benefits. Even so, people appreciate human interaction as it gives more energy and motivation. Having people around you to bounce ideas off, ask questions, and have more of a creative element. According to a few interviewees, the office might be getting a different purpose due to the changes in the work environment. It might function as a meeting space only or a different environment to re-energise, to socialise with other people. The following statement illustrates the shift taking place in people’s minds about working at an office: “I think the office definitely has a place, not just 5 days a week ” (Informant #5). Furthermore, during the interviews conducted, a participant addressed an upcoming trend in the meeting industry, namely the Hub Model. It consists of a host venue where a group of participants meets at a physical location and several additional hubs where the same model is replicated. All hubs attend the event simultaneously and are connected to each other in real-time through video-call or webcast tools. Moreover, all hubs are visible to each other, and the meeting program supports face-to-face interaction. The following statement illustrates this: Armonk is in the northeast of America; I will invite the people who live in that area to an auditorium. So, nobody has to travel on a plane or a train. We will connect them as we have high-quality AV equipment, and we will connect them with the other 12 sites where we maybe have 25/30 people all at a social distance. So, now instead of bringing hundreds of people on, say 12 different occasions to Armonk, where they have the travel the time away from home, etc., we are going to keep them where they live and work (Informant #4).
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