Sunday, April 11, 2021

The future of work from CES: The headquarters at home

A remote worker works from home with tablet, documents, notebook and pen.

This year’s CES, which ends today, has been fascinating because it’s showcased a coming shift in product design based on the assumption that — rather than everyone going into the office — many people will remain working at home for the foreseeable future. 

One of the most exciting sessions at the virtual event focused on this new work-from-home normal. My former colleague from CNET, Brian Cooley, joined Paul Lee from Deloitte LLP, Megan Wollerton from CNET Home, and Jennifer Kent from Parks Associates to talk about where we are now and what’s coming. 

Let’s talk about what they highlighted this week. 

Zoom meetings aren’t enough

I’m not trying to pick on Zoom. It and other videoconferencing products have improved over the past year in terms of engaging people. But they all leave a gap, since there’s no way to re-create casual conversations around the office or at lunch. Those of us who have worked from home have learned to live without the old social engagements. But we haven’t replaced them with anything, our pools of friends have declined, and our social abilities have withered with them. 

Facebook, which began as a social tool, could have filled this gap. But that service lost its way, and has become more of a personal publishing platform than a way to create and develop genuine friendships. I saw nothing at CES that would fill the void. There’s an opportunity for someone to look at the old Facebook, which initially focused on making friends, and come up with something similar.  (Those kinds of friendships are more likely to emerge from multi-player gaming today.)

On a related note, the inability to see body language on camera makes it harder to communicate effectively, suggesting the need for camera advancements. I’m thinking of something like video doors (where you put a large screen in a door frame so you can chat with someone remotely standing up).

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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