The Covid-19 pandemic has upended the daily lives of people around the world in just a few months. The virus’s economic effect has led to new “essential” workers categorisations, a large-scale shift to remote working from home, and unemployment is expected to continue to rise.
And in the midst of work from home orders across the United Kingdom, office workers in their own homes have abandoned their daily commutes to working from dining tables, sofas, and beds. Many may find themselves in such a situation for the foreseeable future, as companies struggle to find a way forward while restrictions slowly lift.
1. Working in an office might turn into a status symbol
Following the pandemic, more employees are expected to divide their time between working remotely and from a corporate office.
With more employees working remotely, companies can open regional hubs or have access to coworking spaces anywhere their workers are located, rather than having the bulk of their staff located in one central office.
As a result, corporate headquarters can become a status symbol for businesses that still have the resources and a sufficiently large workforce to justify costly real estate in a major city. Investing in a company’s headquarters may become a means of attracting the best talent.
Job seekers may consider working for a physically located company as a draw that could boost brand awareness and overall industry influence.
2. Replacement of most meetings by email and IM
Expect to have your post-pandemic work schedule to contain fewer general meetings.
The pandemic has become a sort of technical equaliser where people who had previously been unaccustomed to using software devices in the workplace had no choice but to adapt. And the workers are getting more productive in some situations.
To this end, expect a more streamlined way to work and communicate with colleagues in general: more meetings will turn into emails, and more emails will turn into instant messages.
Team members who do not work together in a central office, could be switching to video for phone calls and meetings. This could help create trust among employees who can’t communicate in person.
3. It might be the end of commercial travel as we know it
As travel of all kinds is suspended, video meetings will take place on a larger scale, and as businesses try to cut costs and balance their finances, many experts believe that business travel as we know it will be a thing of the past.
Changing consumer preferences and an increased interest in social distancing will, in the foreseeable future, limit significant group events such as conferences and trade shows and permanently reduce the volume of business travel.
Additionally, experts say businesses should realise that some business travel is needless during this period and can be done through video meetings. As organisations try to recoup their pandemic-related losses, they will cut travel budgets.
4. Office buildings could become ‘Conference centers’
With the recast of the office building as the ultimate status symbol, its main objective could change.
Analysts predict that future office buildings may become gathering facilities, while focused work is done remotely. This could lead to fewer walled-off offices and more gathering rooms to host meetings, conferences, and other events across the company.
Beyond that, the floor plan for the open office will probably stick around. Despite criticism of destroying productive capacity, businesses may still use the style in an attempt to lower the cost of real estate.
However, open layouts will change: desks may be spread out, partitions may go up, cleaning stations stored with hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes will become the norm, and staff may look for concentrated workspaces, such as privacy booths.
The popularity of agile workspaces with unassigned seating will decline. Employees will want the access and safety of having a personal space that they come to daily or every couple of days and can often clean up.
Expect more touchless fixtures in shared spaces, such as door sensors, automatic sinks, and soap dispensers, and voice-activated elevator banks.
5. Compulsory medical screening on the job could become the norm
Health and safety experts anticipate that medical screening on-the-job, such as temperature inspections and antibody testing, will be a reality for those who, in the months ahead, return to work. Businesses and employers are required to perform a COVID 19 risk assessment for a company before staff return to the office.
And in numerous cases, it’s already happening: some of the world’s biggest employers, including Amazon, and Starbucks have started taking their employees’ temperatures before they are allowed to work to combat the spread of coronavirus among essential workers. There should also be COVID-19 Staff awareness training before they return to work.
It is also likely that staff may be asked to show some sort of “immunity certificate,” confirming they have Covid-19 immunity before returning to work.
For countries like the United Kingdom, which seek to carry out an “immunity passport” scheme, this method, in which staff takes an antibody test to ensure they have immunity, is being adopted.
Some scientists, however, have warned that it is yet to be scientifically proven that having coronavirus antibodies gives a person immunity.
6. Coworkers will get closer
If there is one bright spot on how the pandemic could impact the future of work, it may improve the personal relationships amongst colleagues. When colleagues return to the office, they will ditch past texting habits and eventually get up, walk around and chat in person.
Between colleagues who depended on each other during the pandemic and got to know each other on a more personal level, workplace friendships might flourish.
But the handshakes are on their way out, despite more people contact amongst colleagues. Gestures that can convey friendliness and respect from a distance, like a nod or a smile, could become the social norm.
7. Fashionable face masks may become a wardrobe essential
While business casual is likely to remain the norm in offices, new types of clothing can emerge from the pandemic: rising work from home office wear, and face masks as a socially mandated accessory.
Workers who regularly video conference may redo their wardrobe to be camera friendly — more bright colors, more prominent patterns and clean lines, fewer neutrals, tiny prints, and frills.
It can become commonplace to wear a face mask around the office, particularly in more prominent companies with more staff sharing tight quarters. It might allow the textile industry to experiment on making masks more safe, comfortable, and stylish.
8. Standard 9 to 5 working hours may be a thing of the past
As professionals all juggle the demands of work and home life in the same place, many employers have relaxed rules about workers beginning and ending their days at a given time. For many workers now working effectively from home, employers will find it much harder to restrict flexibility around working hours and job environments.
In order to retain a sense of structure, managers may have to set standards on when they need everyone on staff meetings and other team events at the workplace or online. In addition, to strike a balance between work time and personal time, managers and employees will have to work closely to ensure that no one feels pressured to respond to emails and messages at all hours of the day.
9. Home office stipends may become a typical gain
When Twitter and Shopify gave compulsory work from home directives to staff, both companies offered extra services to help make the transition to remote work more comfortable and smoother.
When working remotely becomes the norm, then stipends for home offices may be a workplace benefit. In order to be successful at remote working, employers would have to provide workers with the requisite tools to be efficient. This includes a small stipend that will enable workers to “customise their space in a manner they think is enough.”
This remote flexibility will also enable businesses to save money on the overhead cost of running massive facilities.
10. The workplace could become fairer for women
For many businesses being forced to function remotely, there may be long-term flexibility enabling more women to remain in the workforce while juggling home and work life. This change in the nature of the workforce may have a significant effect on women, as they are more likely to adapt their careers for the family than men.
Indeed, according to a survey of more than 2,000 women with children under the age of 18, many women who took a career break for raising children said they didn’t want to take a break but had to because of a lack of employer flexibility.
A more flexible business culture could also create more equality at home, as both men and women can spend quality time with their families.
11. It could cut middle management roles forever
We will start to see a hollowing out of middle management in the coming months and years.
One of the big things that occurred after the global financial crisis of 2008 is that companies threw out all kinds of middle management levels, which made it more challenging to get promoted.
Others are more hopeful that the demand for top-tier managers will recover after the pandemic subsides as companies want efficiency to be emphasized. One fear of a flattening management structure is that a higher volume of direct reports will require fewer managers, creating room for error, lack of oversight, and mismanagement.
12. Automation could be stepped up
While futurists have long warned of “job stealing robots,” the pandemic of coronavirus has heightened concerns that automation will overtake workers’ jobs. Due to social distancing measures, many organizations — from restaurants to retailers — were forced to find ways to operate as physically present as few employees as possible. An extra bonus: Algorithms and robots cannot get sick.
What we see is this significant need for massive upskilling and retraining, particularly for the laid off workers. Through algorithms that can complete administrative tasks, robots that can streamline production, and drones that can distribute products, businesses have been working towards automating routine jobs for years. And researchers have found that this form of automation is being implemented more rapidly during economic downturns.
13. The demand for closing the digital divide will increase
Millions of staff lack access to high speed, reliable internet services, or only internet connectivity in some cases. It means millions of employees are actually unable to work remotely, irrespective of industry.
While there have been discussions about the digital divide for years now, the coronavirus pandemic has placed much higher focus on this disparity as staff cannot operate remotely without secure connections.
One silver lining in this scenario, with schools and offices still closed, is that more government officials may see the need to increase broadband capacity, mainly as remote working is a more popular choice for employees.
One should be educated about the Covid-19 pandemic and take or be provided with Safety Via Technology’s online COVID 19 employee awareness training course before returning to the workplace.