Getting Back to Work – The New Normal
In a few short months, our work lives have changed dramatically and for most people who work in an office setting or travel for their career, things will be very different for years to come. Here are some of the changes we can anticipate:
We will regularly work from home –
It is likely that more Americans will split their time between working from home and the office. People will still go to the office for meetings or to spend a day or two working in the office, but the future trend will be for companies to provide access to co-working spaces that an employee goes to a couple of times a week or month.
As people manage the demands of work and home life all in one location, more employers will relax guidelines about the start and end times to the workday. This pandemic experience has shown that many employees have successfully worked from home. It will be a lot harder for employers to refuse flexibility around work hours and work locations.
The workplace does still need structure and employers will need to set expectations for when everyone is needed in the office or online for staff meetings and other activities. Employees and managers also need to agree on the balance between work time and personal time so no one is feeling pressured to respond to emails and messages outside of the workday.
Employers will help us set up a home office –
With so many people working from home on a long-term basis, employers will need to provide employees with additional resources to help the transition to remote work. This could include funds to purchase necessary supplies for their home office spaces including desks, chairs, and electronic equipment like scanners and printers.
For remote work to be effective, companies will have to provide employees with the resources needed to be productive and this includes paying for items that will allow workers to set up their home office for success. Remote flexibility will also allow companies to save overhead costs on leasing and maintaining a larger office space. According to the research-based consulting firm Global Workplace Analytics, employers that allow people to work from home even part-time save about $11,000 per year for each associate.
Many meetings may be replaced by email and messaging –
People who were previously unaccustomed to using tech tools in the workplace have had no choice but to adapt during the pandemic. This has helped more workers become more efficient.
Because of this we can expect a generally nimbler way of working and communicating with coworkers. What was previously a meeting becomes an email. What was previously an email becomes an instant message. We have already experienced phone calls and meetings moving to video. This will also expand to other situations where people gather to meet such as board or civic meetings and garner more participation than before. I have already experienced greater attendance with Zoom board meetings than when we met in person.
It could be the end of business travel as we know it –
Business trips as we know them will be a thing of the past. Changing consumer preferences and greater interest in social distancing will limit large events such as conferences and conventions for the foreseeable future and permanently decrease the volume of business travel. Telecommuting is being adopted at a larger scale and companies can cut costs and balance their budgets with this forced decrease in travel.
Over time, companies may learn that a fair amount of business travel is unnecessary and can be effectively replaced with video meetings. The grind of a long day of air travel will be replaced with a video conference call from the comfort of your office or home.
The main purpose of the office building could change –
Office buildings of the future may become facilities to gather, while focused work is done remotely. This could mean fewer walled-off offices and more gathering spaces to host meetings, conferences and other company-wide events.
Open layouts will change – desks will become spaced out, partitions go up, and cleaning stations stocked with hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes will be readily available. In shared spaces we will see more touchless features like door sensors, automatic sinks, automatic soap dispensers, and voice-activated elevator banks.
In the future, spaces will be designed with durable building materials, furniture, flooring, and other surfaces that can stand up to frequent deep-cleaning. This is expected to be a lasting requirement of the future workplace.
In my next blog, I will review more ways we can expect to see long-term changes in the workplace.
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