For those of us who always dreamed of wearing a dressing gown to work, the opportunity to work from home has been a welcome one. For others, tired of cramped spaces, wailing children and partners reminding them to feed the cat mid-Zoom call, it’s high time to get back to the office.
But the office as we know it could be a thing of the past. Employees can keep productive from home: the pandemic has proved that. After months apart, how can the workplace help us to make better use of the time we spend together?
Roughly 50% of us now work exclusively from home1, but the pandemic didn’t start that trend: it just accelerated it. Home working was increasingly popular amongst white-collar employees long before ‘social distancing’ and ‘self-isolation’ entered our collective vocabulary2.
When national lockdowns began, there were concerns that productivity would take a hit. But those fears were unfounded. Productivity levels appear largely unchanged since before the pandemic3.
That’s thanks in part to some helpful tech. The ubiquitous Zoom now plays an important role in our team-working efforts, as do the many collaboration tools companies rushed to adopt shortly after we were told to stay at home.
Frequently included amongst the key benefits of home working are heightened flexibility, less time spent commuting, more time for personal interests and being able to keep on top of the laundry (ok, we might have made that last one up).
Although it’s certainly been an adjustment, for many of us, working from home has been a positive experience.
Despite its many benefits, working from home doesn’t work for everyone. Several factors have made home working a source of struggle for some employees.
Remember work-life balance? Remember a ‘weekend’? Remember when your kitchen table didn’t double as your work desk? There was a time when leaving the office signalled the end of the workday. Of course, cloud technology made it possible to work from anywhere, all the time, meaning a true work-life balance was hard to achieve even before the pandemic.
But over the past year, there has been even less of a distinction between work life and home life. Employees are feeling increasingly obliged to keep working past their contracted hours, logging an extra two hours every day on average4.
Sure, in the short-term, longer working hours might benefit some companies, but sooner or later, all work and no play will lead to a sharp decline in work satisfaction and employee retention.
Many employees are frustrated with their ‘lack of equipment and space to work when working from home’5. That minimalistic one-bed flat in the city might not seem like such a great choice right now. 2020 was the year many of us found ourselves questioning where to fit multiple desks, a dual-monitor setup and an office chair that wouldn’t look out of place inside a SpaceX rocket.
Our homes weren’t designed to be places of work, which has left some employees pining to be back in the office.
Sadly, the pandemic is a threat to both our physical and mental health. 20% of UK home workers report feeling lonely6, whilst rates of depression and other forms of mental illness are on the rise7. The lack of daily interactions is taking its toll on many employees.
As social creatures, we rely upon our communities. Although we might not realise it, those everyday interactions we have with colleagues are vital to our sense of wellbeing, even the most mundane ones (You bought another houseplant this weekend, Cheryl? How fascinating!).
Without water cooler chats or someone to shoot a knowing glance at when things are going wrong, our mental health can take a hit.
Although remote working technology has allowed many businesses to keep going during lockdown, it’s not quite managed to replicate how we would naturally interact with one another in person. As The Conversation explains: “People can’t ‘mix and mingle’ - everyone must listen to one person, making [remote business events] quite rigid."8
It’s harder to build trust in colleagues or to pick up on their social cues when working remotely9. That can often lead to miscommunication and frustration; hardly the recipe for seamless teamwork.
If that doesn’t seem challenging enough, spare a moment’s thought for new recruits joining the workforce without ever having met the people they work with in person. If this trend continues in the longterm, what impact will it have on team dynamics?
You know that guy you follow on LinkedIn that’s always posting about how his three-year-old is his ‘favourite colleague’? He’s lying. During the pandemic, parents have had the unenviable task of working two full-time jobs: taking care of the children and that other thing that they know they were supposed to be doing but they can’t quite remember what it was because one of the kids is screaming their head off and why does my laptop have jam on it?
Sorry, got a little distracted there.
The ONS explains: “For working parents with school-aged children that said their work had been affected by the coronavirus, 20% said this disruption was at least in part because of having to work around childcare responsibilities.”10 To get work done, sometimes you need a quiet space free from interruption.
Both office working and working from home have their pros and cons. So, what shape will our working lives take when things go back to normal?
It’s a best of both worlds scenario. The workspace of the future will take the best parts of office working and working from home to create a hybrid working system.
It will be less common for employees to visit the office to complete tasks that they could just as easily do at home. CIPD reports that 40% of employers anticipate that more than half of their workforce will work regularly from home11.
Instead, a blended approach will become more common, with collaborative meetings, the need for peace and quiet, and the desire to establish stronger working relationships becoming the primary reasons to occasionally work from the office.
According to Eric S Yuan: Founder and CEO, Zoom, “In the near future, some organisations will adopt a hybrid-work model, with certain days in the office and others remote, and might align employees’ in-office and remote schedules to create equity.”12
Many companies have put their offices on the market or plan to give up their leases. But space for employees to work will continue to be an important asset post-lockdown.
Cue: co-working spaces. Flexible offices that can be used whenever you need them, whether that’s throughout the working week or only on occasion. Spaces designed for collaboration, team-wide meetings, video conferences, hot-desking and informal chats will become commonplace post-pandemic.
Now that we know how easy it is to hold Zoom calls or get quick responses from our colleagues through instant messaging, we’re in no rush to rid ourselves of the cloud tech we adopted last year.
Zoom and other remote working technologies are here to stay. We’ll be less likely to take a business trip just to attend an hour-long meeting and more likely to stick to speedy video calls. We’ll also keep using our beloved collaborative software like Google Suite, Dropbox and project management tools, which, hopefully, will make for more efficient working.
If you’re searching for flexible office space, learn more about our facilities.
With all the essentials like fast internet, IT support, meeting spaces, private offices and hot-desk options, plus added benefits like an on-site gym and cafe, your team will jump at the opportunity to come into work.
The world of work has changed; if your business is changing with it, get in touch.