The “great work-from-home experiment” has resulted in changes and realizations.
We have adjusted how, where and when we perform our duties. We have accelerated our adoption and use of technology. We might have shifted our views on how we would like to work and interact within our offices.
And we have learned there are certain aspects of our current reality we may wish to retain after the pandemic.
This two-part article discusses how, in turn, changes we have made and experienced working remotely in the last few months will have an ongoing impact on the future of work in office buildings.
Communications technology will get better – and fast
This grand experiment has afforded technology companies tremendous insights and will help inform the next iterations of their respective products.
We can expect these products to get better and become increasingly user-friendly, at an accelerated pace, making remote working even more efficient and enjoyable.
Employees will want to continue working from home, but only for part of the week
People have come to realize the positive aspects of working from home they will be reluctant to forego post-COVID-19.
In speaking with a number of professionals, key factors include having a dedicated, private space in which to perform focused work without having to wear some form of noise-cancelling headgear, having flexibility to attend to domestic matters while still fulfilling work responsibilities, and, for some, gaining back time from not having to commute to and from work.
As such, employees are looking to adopt a hybrid work arrangement wherein they work both from home and in the office.
According to Colliers Canada’s Work from Home Survey Results, based on Canadian findings from the Colliers Global Work from Home Survey that has so far collected responses from over 5,000 participants in 25 countries from 18 industries. 85 per cent of Canadian respondents did not have much experience working from home pre-COVID-19.
But, 80 per cent of them would like the option to work from home at least one day during the week upon returning to the office.
Additionally, with work-life balance continuing to be a top concern and objective for many employees, the ability to work from home and simultaneously address domestic matters will undoubtedly become a part of this balance equation.
Employees’ desire to keep the “best of” the working experience they adopted during the pandemic will require employers to be more agile in providing work arrangements to current and future employees.
The main imperative for employers is to secure the most talented workforce. This objective has not changed, even in the midst of the pandemic, despite unemployment numbers rising.
The difference now is that employees have experienced alternative working arrangements, certain elements of which they want to hold on to post-pandemic.
“Flexibility on the part of employers will be paramount,” says Kerris Hougardy, Colliers’ vice-president, people services for North America.
“While there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution, it’s important for employers to be empathetic to employees’ needs and concerns.”
On the flip side, according to Kerris, is the caveat that flexibility and compromise do not fully rest on employers’ shoulders.
“With an employee opting to work from home two to three days of the week, for example, they would hopefully understand that it would not be practical for them to have an exclusive, large private office for the days they don’t come into the office. Employees would need to make a few concessions as well.”
The physical office will still have its place, albeit with a few modifications
Although employees’ preferences regarding how and where they work are evolving, the physical office will continue to play a critically important role in business operations.
Many functions, including onboarding and mentoring, are just better performed in person.
Most people are innately social, and the workplace facilitates a level of connection (both planned and spontaneous) and collaboration that is difficult to emulate remotely.
Colliers Canada’s Work from Home Survey Results show respondents miss these aspects of being in the physical office the most.
Synthia Kloot, Colliers Canada’s senior vice-president of brokerage operations, further supports this premise: “We can’t underplay people’s desire to get together and build relationships in person.
“After all, one of the reasons working from home and thus, virtual interactions, have been so successful, is that employees already had relationships and rapport with one another, which they had built in the office.”
With the office being looked to as a place to gather, collaborate and socialize, its usage and design will change, making way for more breakout, interaction and entertainment spaces.
Conversely, according to the Canadian work-from-home survey results, more than half of respondents indicated that individual, focused work is better performed at home.
With employees believing that having a dedicated, private space makes them more productive, they are expected to want the same arrangement in the office.
Part 1 Summary
Be it regarding technology updates, work arrangement modifications or office design adjustments, it’s important for employers and employees to connect, communicate and make the necessary concessions to make the future of work work for both sides.
Recruiting and retention needs to accommodate employees’ evolving work structure preferences. Office layouts will also change.
People’s desire for personal, private workspaces needs to be considered alongside their need for more collaboration and social spaces. During this time of change and unpredictability, flexibility is key to not just adapting, but thriving.
Stay tuned: For Part II of this article, which will discuss the rest of the Top-6 ways the workplace is changing post-COVID-19.