Almost everyone, besides specific essential workers, have had a taste of what remote work looks like this year. Many office workers have had to adapt to the new normal that COVID-19 has brought with it, but working remotely began long before the virus's onset.
Even back in 2015, 4.2 million people were working from home in the UK. With that number rising exponentially this year due to social distancing measures. At peak lockdown time, a whopping 60% of the workforce was working from home.
With so many office workers operating out of their homes, office buildings are sitting empty, and companies are struggling to pay their rent. Keeping these large office spaces is unsustainable for businesses, and therefore things will have to change.
The importance of flexibility
What this pandemic has shown the world is that being adaptable and flexible is essential to economic and business success. Companies were quick to react to the necessary changes when the pandemic hit. Still, these processes can be optimized to ensure they are resilient in the event of a second wave or entirely new situation.
The pressure and stress that businesses have been under recently is something that they never want to deal with again. More flexibility in the way companies operate and where they operate from will mean that they are more resilient when challenges like COVID-19 occur. Preparing and educating the workforce on working from home or co-working spaces means that employees are ready regardless of whether there is a pandemic or other situation.
In addition to the benefits of increased flexibility to protect businesses, it is also becoming expected by the workforce. Employees want more flexibility in how they structure their workday, and books like "The Four Hour Work Week" have increased awareness for a more balanced work schedule. Even before COVID-19, many employees were requesting to work some of their hours from home or a place of their choosing. Businesses need to adapt and offer more flexibility for their office workers if they want to keep them happy and motivated.
The rise of co-working spaces
Companies are already struggling to cover the costs of permanent office spaces, and many are seeking alternative and cost-effective options. Freelancers and solopreneurs have been using co-working spaces for years, but only recently have they begun to rise in popularity. Co-working and serviced offices Edinburgh offers flexible remote working environments which are pay-per-use. While they have been used predominantly by small business owners and freelancers, many companies see the benefits of using co-working spaces as a practical office space for their employees.
Employees don't want to always work from home since coming into the office offers social interaction and helps build a company culture. Having a mix of both time in the office and hours from home is exactly what employees are looking for. People can choose coworking spaces that are closer to their homes, meaning their commute into work can be shorter.
Co-working spaces are highly beneficial to employers since it means they no longer have to pay for a permanent office space. Instead, they can cover their employees' costs to work remotely out of a serviced office or co-working space. The spaces are fully equipped, with furniture, equipment, utilities, good quality internet, and various amenities. All those costs are covered by a low daily, weekly, or monthly fee, which costs much less than having your own office. On top of that, there is way less stress involved, since staff can just show up and get straight to work.
In the future, many companies will likely take advantage of the ease and efficiency of co-working spaces, and they will continue to pop up in more and more locations.
Increased focus on wellbeing
Healthy and happy employees contribute directly to the success of a company. Employee wellbeing has been brought to the forefront of the conversation as businesses plan strategies for employees to return to work. Physical health and wellbeing are essential in an office environment, as you have many employees in the same area that could be vulnerable. Monitoring wellbeing will become a massive part of the future of office work.
Companies will have to shift their regular office operations to focus on the wellbeing of staff. Face-to-face interactions will have to be limited, and employee start times may be staggered to encourage minimal traffic congestion on the floor. Desks will have to be spread out to the adequate distance, and employees will need to have their temperature taken upon arrival at work.
As important as physical wellbeing is mental and psychological wellbeing. With times changing so drastically, many struggle to cope, and all the negative media has an impact on mental and psychological wellbeing. Business owners will need to develop new and innovative ways to promote mental clarity and positive company culture while still adhering to distancing recommendations.
The future of office work could look dramatically different to what it did even just months ago. More and more office workers will be going remote, and traditional office environments will need to adapt and evolve to mirror that.