The last year has seen many articles attempting to predict what offices and other types of workplaces will be like once a more traditional norm is restored.
While it is easy to see the changes as being a result of COVID-19, the truth is that there has long been a trend toward working remotely, mostly due to new technologies becoming available.
This article examines three aspects of the workplace today:
- How we perceive the workplace
- It’s function in today’s environment
- How we are starting to evaluate offices going forward
First, the move to more flexible working may have always been inevitable, but COVID-19 has likely sped up how quickly we will accept the switch.
What the Pandemic Has Taught Us about Remote Working
A large percentage of the workforce spent most of 2020 working remotely. This has meant carve out spaces in our homes where we can work with as few interruptions as possible. But, of course, that has not been an easy task, and they’ve had to spend a lot of time learning how to juggle their personal and professional lives while they are in the same environment.
The blurred lines between work and personal lives have led to many interesting challenges, but most of us have adapted nearly a year later. The genuine issues with establishing a workplace at home have largely been worked out, and now people have found many of the benefits of working where they live (as well as the downsides). But, on the other hand, the idea of having to return to an office -with the inconveniences like the commute – is not nearly so welcome for some employees.
There is a growing desire to keep the best of both worlds, and why shouldn’t we?
Re-evaluating the Workplace
As we’ve mentioned, working remotely is by no means new. Over the last decade, it’s been a growing trend in some companies (particularly tech companies) as businesses begin to determine where their staff is more productive. Some companies have realized that working from home is actually more productive for their people and the value of having everyone present in a single place. Of course, this isn’t true for every business – but some industries and occupations find it beneficial to allow remote workers to get the highest productivity, better results on the projects, and lower operations costs.
Previously the vast majority of workers did not have the option or have wanted to go into the office at least a couple of days of the week. There are five reasons why people have opted to leave home for the office at least for a few days.
- Work is where a lot of people get most of their social interactions.
- They don’t have all of the necessary tools to complete all of their tasks at home.
- There is still a sense of obligation to at least make an appearance, with some of this being a way of reminding people that they are still on the team.
- Collaboration is a lot easier when people are in the same place, not just on the same conference call.
- People like to have a change of place, and the office is a familiar place to meet (instead of a café where they have to be more aware of who is around them when working). This is coupled with the employees’ desire to not have to pay for five full days of working from home (the bills are definitely higher when you are home all of the time).
Still, workers do appreciate the ability to work from home a few to most days. That leads to questions of who is responsible for helping to set up staff homes to assist employees in effectively work remotely.
The Trend toward Less Traditional Office Spaces
When people need to go to the office, there is a shift in what kind of spaces companies should have available. For example, if employees work remotely for three days out of the week, it doesn’t make sense to have a reserved personal desk for them at the office for only two days of the week.
Traditional workspaces have been evolving, with fewer open office areas and meeting rooms. Instead, companies are looking for more open spaces where people can meet and complete their work in the same space. Areas like pods or quiet spaces that are shared are increasingly more popular since they can be a place where anyone can work instead of a dedicated place for a single person.
When people are working in the office, usually what they need is more collaborative spaces. This changing need for offices results in a very different type of office space for people who work both remotely and in an office. Creating space that allows for chance encounters, face-to-face meetings with other team members and cl, and socializing with other team members is critical to building healthy teams.
Evaluating the Effectiveness of Working Remotely
The pandemic has made people consider working remotely in a very different light. As much of a challenge as learning to work from home was for many people, many people have now learned how to juggle work and life in the same space.
Allowing more people to work from home more often means reshaping the office spaces when people need to be present. Again, hubs provide a great solution since they provide the kind of space that people likely need based on their new routines and needs for the office.
Having the flexibility to work remotely or from a more comfortable space in the office will likely help staff be more productive as it streamlines the norms they’ve become accustomed to since 2020.
For companies, there are definite financial benefits from having staff members work from home most of the week, then working in a hub space when they are present in the office. Companies need less space than is found in a traditional office setting. In addition, several bills, such as power and water, will be less because fewer people are using the facilities all day.
It is difficult to predict how the workplace will evolve as things return to normal. But, right now, we do have an idea of some of them that will likely change. So it will be interesting to see just how offices evolve over the next few years.