One year on – how the pandemic has shaped the future of the workplace for good
Its been exactly one year since many of us were sent home from our city offices for what we thought would be a few weeks of working from home. Little did we know this was the beginning of a radically changed world of how and where people work, with many of us set to say goodbye to five days a week in the office for good.
The initial weeks for those of us fortunate enough to be able to work from home got us very excited by having more time in our days, no commute costs, and the realisation that we can get on with work just fine. Who needs offices anymore? Not only are employees able to complete their workload in the comfort of their own home and avoid time consuming and expensive commutes, but productivity levels haven’t dropped as some employers might have feared they would. While many people have been enjoying the benefits that comes from working from home, with 23% choosing this as their preferred method of working, 72% still wanted to see some element of the office in their working week, proving there is life to the office yet.
So what’s next? With vaccines being rolled out and the government presenting their roadmap for lifting restrictions, we are now seeing hopeful signs of the “light at the end of the tunnel” and the possible return to the office. Of course, it won’t be the office as we once knew it – there will be fewer people in it for a start and all manner of social-distancing measures to keep workers safe. But how else might it change to accommodate new ways of working?
The main reason people want to come back to the office is because they want a sense of belonging. Sure, they can get the work done at home, but they miss the people. As we’ve said in previous blogs, we are social animals, and the office environment can provide a sense of community. The hybrid workplace will require technology that allows employees to seamlessly share information and collaborate, whether they are located in the office or working from home.
Just 12 months ago, the pandemic prompted the largest remote working experiment we’ve ever seen, propelling many companies into the remote work model… and they’re finding it works. Businesses that never offered remote work before are now embracing it. With fewer people coming into the office every day, spaces can be redesigned or even reduced. The office could be reorganised by getting rid of row of desks and creating more collaborative meeting spaces. Employees can continue to work from home. They can also work from smaller “spoke” offices near where they live, and then they go to the headquarters to do important stuff: meet, collaborate, new ideas, business review, the stuff you need to do face-to-face. Soon flexible working will no longer be the hot topic, it will simply be the new normal.
Remote workers travelling in are now likely only in the office for a short period. Time was valuable then; it is more so now. We’ll see a rise in the ability to control the technology in the room via your own device. Personal devices can be used to enable touchless meeting collaboration, as well as controlling features in the room such as lighting, room temperature, etc. The right equipment will allow employees to be productive as they embrace online communications and begin to filter back to the workplace.
The pandemic has presented the opportunity to rethink our approach to the modern workplace. As we step into the era of work, we’ll find a very different approach to the 9-5 to the one we left behind last March.