A New Workplace: How COVID-19 has changed the working office

In the last year we have had to adapt many aspects of our lives to fit the restrictions imposed on us. Now with the end in sight people are finally able to make plans for the future, but what does this mean for office working? Will we slowly return to how things used to be, or has the pandemic changed the way companies plan to operate in the future?

Before the pandemic the thought of working from home might of seemed like a dream to most people with some companies even offering this as an incentive in job advertisements. In the early months of 2020 however, this quickly became a reality for many people as a global pandemic spread and a stay-at-home order was issued by the government. Suddenly kitchens became break rooms, dining tables became desks and spare rooms became board rooms. As most prepared to settle into this new way of working for what was thought to be a few weeks, none would have thought that almost a year later we would still be in the same position. So, what are the pros and cons that we have learned from this time at home?

The Benefits

Work-life balance

There are many benefits to working from home that appealed to workers pre-pandemic and continue to be today. A key aspect of working from home that benefitted so many before the pandemic was the ability to have a more balanced home and work life. For many people this became a necessity in the early months of lockdown with schools closing and children at home full-time.

No commuting time or expense

There was also the fact that the morning commute now only consisted of a short walk to from the bedroom to the living room. This meant that employees had more time to work and flexibility to co-ordinate their working day around their home life. Many put the time saved to more productive use that set them up for the day such as exercise or meditation that became a vital part of both mental and physical health over the months.

Tech experts in the making

The pandemic and remote working has also thrown employees into 21st century tech whether they like it or not. However, moving forward into a new era of technology it can only be beneficial that people are learning how to incorporate this into their everyday lives.

The Downside

Productivity

It was to be expected that most employers were worried about productivity levels during this time with more distractions and less supervision. In the following months of the lockdown Prodoscore reported an increase in productivity by 47% since March 2020 (reported September 2020). However, Tracey Bower from Forbes suggested this to be ‘panic productivity’, with all the job losses and redundancies she proposed that people were trying to stay ‘relevant’ and ‘visible’ to employers and therefore working harder than before to achieve this. Overtime we’ve seen that some employees seemed to have hit ‘a wall’ with the ongoing effects of the pandemic taking its toll on optimism and motivation.

Blurred lines between work and rest

There’s also the factor that work-home separation has become a lot more difficult with people putting in an extra hour or two which may seem beneficial but, in the end, could lead to burnout and do more damage than good.

Loss of close contact

Another downside that has been felt by almost all the population is the lack of contact with other colleagues that would have happened every day in the office. You may not have realised it, but that 5-minute tea break or lunchtime gossip may have been an important aspect of a working day. Sadly, there aren’t enough zoom calls to make up for this and the effect it’s had has hit some harder than others.

Moving past the benefits and downsides, we must now look to what the future will look like for our working lives. Slack co-founder and CEO Steven Butterfield shared his thoughts on the future of office life:

“We all know that work will never be the same, even if we don’t yet know all the ways in which it will be different. If we can move past decades of orthodoxy about 9-to-5, office-centric work, there’s an opportunity to retain the best parts of office culture while freeing ourselves from bad habits and inefficient processes, from ineffective meetings to unnecessary bureaucracy. Every leader believes they can do better, and things can move faster: this is their chance.”

– BBC Worklife

However, others also point out the overrated nature of working from home that employees are starting to see themselves. Steve Jobs was a famous opponent of remote work highlighting that “creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions – you run into someone, you ask what they’re doing, you say ‘Wow,’ and soon you’re cooking up all sorts of ideas.”

Looking to the future it is clear that remote working is here to stay and will become a permanent aspect of our lives. Companies have already begun to change and adapt their policies long term to embrace the ‘new way of working’. At Consegna we have been working from home since the beginning of the year and we did for parts of last year. During this time, we’ve seen many changes within the Company and within our clients’ businesses that have been implemented to suit the circumstances. To name a few, our Consultants have been supplied with mobile phones to stay connected and accessible to both clients and candidates throughout the hiring process. We have also incorporated the communication platform Slack into our day-to-day lives to ensure that communication and contact stays consistent within the entire Consegna team. From our client’s perspective we have noticed that those who were against the idea of remote working pre-lockdown have had changed their views on the matter and therefore been able to increase their talent pools as a result. In all aspects we are excited to see what the future holds and the changes that remote working will bring as well as returning to face-to-face interactions that have been missed over the last year.

Grace Finlay
24th February 2021

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