We can’t go back to how it was

Coronavirus has had a huge impact worldwide on us as individuals, a society, a workforce, etc. It’s hard to predict now when this crisis will end, despite many countries starting to lift restrictions. Some business activities will return to normal, however there will be some irreversible changes that become our new norm. One such change, is the way we work.

I used to think that once our brain gets used to doing certain things in a certain way, introducing a new behaviour would be a challenge. However, I found that we are far more adaptable and can embrace change rapidly. We had to quickly figure out how to minimise the negative impacts. Working from home (WFH) was one solution, even those who were not the biggest fans of having a virtual workforce, had to adopt this new way of getting things done.

Covid-19 has dramatically sped up digital transformation; having your office in the Cloud has become an inevitable choice for many organisations overnight. Microsoft Teams is one example that we are embracing at Gilligan Sheppard. In November 2019 the software had 20 million daily active users and by March 2020, it reached 32 million! A week later, another 12 million joined, with an estimated 44 million daily users. Zoom is another good example with 10 million daily users in December 2019, now spiking at around 200 million in March this year.

For most office-type work, people can absolutely work remotely due to technology. Many tech companies and professionals were already working flexible hours before the outbreak, because everything can be accessed online, and employee productivity can be easily measured.

People do not necessarily have to show their faces in the office anymore, they can work consecutively during certain hours that suit them to be productive. For me, flexible working hours have also increased work-life balance and job satisfaction.

Now that more employees have proven they can successfully work from home, they have gained their employers’ trust and respect during the lockdown period. It has made it harder for employers to deny flexibility around work hours and work settings. A Gallup survey revealed that 54% of US workers would leave their current job for the one that gave them flexibility to work remotely.

As open-plan offices have increased potential to spread viruses, organisations have had to adapt to ensure work productivity and prevent future outbreaks. In general, each employee needs about nine square metres of activity space, in addition to their desk and other office equipment. Offices also provide other activity spaces such as a tea room, reception, meeting areas, etc.

Organisations could possibly save considerable parts of their rent, water, electricity, communications, cleaning and other expenses. According to Gartner’s Research, nearly three quarters of CFO’s expect to transition a number of employees who were previously on premise, to continue working remotely on a permanent basis. Their primary purpose being to cut costs.

However, the office won’t be completely disappearing, it might become more for meetings and social connection.

With the development of telecommunication technologies, more WFH and less commuting saves transportation costs such as petrol, parking, and public transport fares. It can also ease traffic congestion, and urban air pollution could be reduced.

As a result, the stress of employees’ lives is reduced and more time can be spent on personal well-being which in turn, could help to reduce the burden on the national health system.

 Working remotely from home brings challenges; to self-discipline, communication with colleagues, and facing work pressure alone. People who enjoy working remotely will try to continue, and those who are tired of working alone will look forward to returning to the office. Not everything can go back to the way it was. We have taken a big step forward during this pandemic, so let’s hope the positive changes will become permanent.

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