22 Apr Is this the end of the office era?
The past month has been a rollercoaster of change in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the most prominent transitions is that of working from home instead of in the office. The UK has adapted to remote working well, given the circumstances; many able businesses have introduced new remote processes and employees have established new ways of co-working. Adoption of remote working solutions is through the roof; Microsoft saw a 25% increase in Microsoft Teams usage in the first week of lockdown, and meeting minutes hit 2.1 billion in a single day on the 31st March.
Millions of people have also started to take advantage of remote working to improve their wellbeing; taking family walks during their lunch hour, making healthier meals and finding innovative ways to exercise… everyone is talking about Joe Wickes!
It seems that remote working, and the flexible benefits that come with it, is being embraced as the “new normal”. But the big question is, will things ever go back to the “old normal?” Or will normal mean something different when the COVID-19 pandemic is over?
Indeed, it looks like mass remote working is, in some capacity, here to stay. Consulting firm Global Workplace Analytics’ president Kate Lister predicts that within the next few years around 30% of people will be working from home a few days a week. Quoted by vox.com, she added that there has been demand by employees for greater work-life flexibility and now employers have had a chance to see the light.
Remote working offers huge benefits to both companies and employees; reduced overheads and office rental costs, no office commute, a flexible schedule, and a more personalised work environment – to name a few. It’s likely that the use of hot-desk spaces and huddle rooms will increase, enabling employees to collaborate in person only when they really need to. Flexible working options like this offer opportunities for increased productivity, backed up by a poll (The Independent) last year surveying employees who had flexibility in working time and location.
Despite the clear benefits of remote working, there are major downsides. Less people in the office means vacant infrastructure that would need to be repurposed. And, the physical proximity that co-workers gain in the office just can’t be matched virtually; physical interaction within a designated space can create a sense of team and community that many businesses might struggle to maintain at a distance.
Whether you are for or against remote working long term, it is clear that the world has changed in light of the COVID-19 crisis. When the storm passes, “normal” won’t be the same as we knew it; even if the change is only in perspective on how to improve office spaces and work more flexibly.