The future of offices, post-COVID-19: Remote work, re-designed workplaces, freedom of choice, more sanitisation
What do you remember about the last day you were in the office? Before the circuit breaker began, many of us would have been desensitised to travelling back and forth between home and the office; but as the new norm takes form, we see ourselves being hurled into the future of telecommuting and online meetings. Between answering Zoom calls and putting up with noisy neighbours while working from home, we're all taking time to adapt to the new changes that are taking place — whether we like it or not.
And surprise surprise, even with being extracted out of the offices, we're getting on just fine with our jobs thanks to the power of technology. Meetings and business deals go on as per usual and we've programmed ourselves to learn new skills in order to fill any voids which arose from the conventional working environment. It does pose a valid question: What would the future of offices look like now? Even when the world is rid of this deadly virus in the distant future, how would our jobs be like? Here are some of our predictions:
Rethinking the purpose of the office
The time spent apart from our second homes have made us question the function of the office now. Is it deemed essential? Do we need that big of a conference room? Or is it a place where fosters team building and an attractive proposition for new talents? We imagine it could really be just a space to cultivate a healthy culture within the team. Which means it can afford that bit of a downsize (just to shave off the monthly rent) and perhaps let that surplus benefit the employees.
Remote work will be on the rise
Mircrosoft CEO Satya Nadella said: "We've seen two years worth of digital transformation in two months." The pandemic has managed to push our boundaries, even for the technically-challenged. Zoom meetings are a now norm that we can activate with our eyes closed. Some have found ways to maximise the resources, such as recording the entire meeting just so that person tasked to take minutes could do something else more productive. According to Global Workplace analytics, "A typical employer can save about US$11,000 per year for every person who works remotely half of the time." Hot desking could be the next big alternative for employees who need the space or the face time for important matters, which fits the grid of a having a smaller office space.
Here comes the downside. While we enjoy the luxuries of missing the peak hour commute, it's hard to draw the line with work and lesiure when you're working from home all day. The office posed as a space of clocking in and out, which was an easy sign that you're done for the day once you've stepped out with your belongings. It's hard to do so when you're working remotely or from home. The distinction has been blurred, which means employers could activate you at any point of time.
Re-designed workplaces for the sake of health and wellness
Sure, even if we ride this pandemic out. We will never be the same again. Workplaces would have to adapt in order to make their employees feel safe and comfortable. Especially if you're congregating a few hundred people in an indoor space with air-conditioning for eight hours a day. We suspect safe distancing will still be a practice, hence you wouldn't be elbow-to-elbow with your work wife anymore. Frequent santisation will also take place on high contact surfaces such as tabletops, laptop screens, door handles and keyboards.
A greater need for teamwork and collaboration
With lesser face time, communication and team synergy would have to be amped up. There will be challenges ahead, which some of us have already experienced. But there are also alternatives that managers and bosses have to come up with, to ensure more effective workflow among different departments. More digital-driven strategies and logistics might come into play, with use of the many online resources and tools available right now.
Employees will get a bigger say
Chances are, it will be left up to you — and no longer about the organisation's regulations anymore. The lasting effects of a deadly virus would change the way people feel about other people in general, and no management or HR could ever take the risk of enforcing their employees to head back to the office. To avoid any implications for the company, most employees would be able to make a personal choice with regards to what's best and most comfortable for them.