The past year has undoubtedly reshaped our working habits exponentially, but what is the future of work?
We are fast approaching the first anniversary of the UK 2020 lockdown, but with the vaccine rollout well underway, people are beginning to think about what a return to the office will look like.
There is no denying that working from home has its benefits, but the majority of us are experiencing serious Zoom fatigue and really missing seeing our colleagues in person. No amount of video conferencing calls can take the place of face-to-face interaction and working collaboratively all in one place.
Flexible workspace will be critical as life begins to return to some sort of normality, with even the staunchest of home working advocates recognising that remote working 100 per cent of the time is unsustainable in terms of staff wellbeing, not to mention creativity.
There is also the issue of young workers who are missing out on development opportunities that exist only in the workplace, it’s obviously impossible to replicate the learning of workplace soft skills in a remote working environment. There is nothing organic or spontaneous about learning opportunities when every coming together of individuals is scheduled and done through a screen.
The absence of the commute has simply resulted in the majority of us simply working longer hours, during the time we would previously have spent commuting, and perhaps even longer. For many of us our work/life balance is way worse than it was before because we are finding it increasingly difficult to switch off, with no clearly defined end to the working day.
A study conducted by JLL in November 2020 reported that although staff value the flexibility of being able to from home some of the time they “still retain a strong affinity for the office, especially as it relates to providing a sense of community and belonging”. 70% of those surveyed agreed that an office environment is more conducive to team building and management support.
An earlier study by Skillcast and YouGov conducted in May 2020 found that it is younger workers (under 35) who have struggled with home-based work, with motivation difficulties cited by 59% of respondents and 44% admitting to feeling lonely.
We find ourselves in a forced situation whereby employers are now able to evaluate how their teams are coping with home working, with extroverts finding it more challenging due to missing the social interaction of the office, whereas introverts appear to perhaps be thriving in a quiet home environment. This will undoubtedly lead to a re-evaluation of workspace and perhaps how it can be adapted to suit individuals in order to achieve the greatest productivity, something which has long been in the offing but which has been brought in to sharp focus and accelerated due to the pandemic.
With companies potentially looking at hybrid working models going forward, what will be critical will be the need to ensure that protocols are in place to ensure that anyone working remotely is provided with the correct setup in order to do so. Remote working policies will need to be rigorous and monitored, while remote working employees will be expected to be accountable for their own good homeworking practise.
Offices are certainly not a thing of the past, indeed a recent survey by Hubble revealed that 71% of employees want an office from which they can work.
What is certain is that workers want a place where they can work collaboratively and interact socially with their colleagues, where ‘water cooler moments’ spark ideas and creativity, and where company culture can be maintained and further developed. This can only happen in an office.
Image courtesy of shironosov via istock