Over the last few months, the working conditions worldwide have changed in ways that we could never have imagined. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States, it was estimated that nearly 50% of the workforce could work from home successfully, yet less than 4% did so regularly. Times have changed, however, and we are now seeing a substantial jump in the number of workers completing work out of a home office. We can assume that nearly 25–30% of the workforce will be working from home in the foreseeable future.
Advantages of working in an office
Though it is no doubt that the future of work will change, there are still advantages to being in an office. If your employer is one of the fortunate ones that can continue to maintain an office environment for you to work from, perhaps consider yourself lucky. Though COVID-19 has proven to thousands of employers worldwide that remote work is possible, it doesn’t take away the benefits that one can receive when they come and go from an office every day.
And if we have learned anything, knowing how to be successful when working remotely can help us when we are in the office. Now that we have experienced all that remote work offers, we’ll be far better positioned to move our work back home for a temporary period for future needs.
This all said, when we practice office work more than remote work, we do experience a host of advantages.
- We become better at time management as we have a finite number of hours to complete our work
- Our interpersonal skills improve because we have the benefit of shoulder to shoulder work time, with conversations that can be continued remotely if needed
- We increase our ability to learn on the job as we watch others do their work
- We learn how to be more creative and solve challenges together as a team vs. independently
- We get greater visibility from our leaders and the higher-ups in our organization
- We better understand our business as everything we need is right at our fingertips and we don’t need to spend time trying to reach others that can get us the information we need
- We can capitalize on privacy as we are no longer forced to share home office time with a partner, child, or others
Six ways that our work conditions might change
But how, exactly, does this impact working conditions when so many workers are working from home, physically separated from their colleagues? And what are the long-term ramifications to the way so many of us are used to doing business?
- The notion of an office building still being available for workers to work at could become something of a status symbol
- Virtual meetings and screen time can replace meetings, and in other cases through text and email
- Business travel, at least what we thought was business travel, will only become necessary in the direst of cases
- Colleagues will learn new ways to communicate with one another, and may inadvertently become closer during the process
- The idea of going to work at 8 AM and being done at 5 PM will become a thing of the past
- Companies previously considering automation to take over monotonous repeatable tasks may finally decide to embrace technology
The safety measures we must take to prevent risk of COVID-19 spread
We understand that working from home can provide a host of benefits and create new efficiencies for today’s workers. But, working in the office comes with its own set of benefits and advantages. Unfortunately, with the risk not yet behind us, most office buildings have needed to incorporate safety precautions to keep employees and visitors safe.
Our office environment will likely consist of social distancing, an increased presence of hand sanitizer stations strategically placed throughout the office, and more. Further, some of those behaviors that we previously took for granted will need to change.
- Employees who feel ill or in any way under the weather will be encouraged to work from home or call in sick
- Handshaking amongst colleagues and visitors will be discouraged
- Business travel will be limited to only the most pressing of business trips, not only helping employees to stay safe, but also saving businesses thousands of dollars (or more) each month
- Flexible work arrangements may have employees stagger the days they are physically present in the office, using the opposite days to work from home using the new tools and technology embraced during the earlier phases of the pandemic.
- Workspaces will be reconfigured to allow more distance between employees, also creating more privacy
Employer and employee must partner to create optimal working conditions going forward
Across the globe, we’re beginning to settle into a new routine. In many cases, that new routine involves a hybrid approach to how and where we get our work done. Many employees have a long-desired, flexible work environment that allows a certain number of days in the office and the remaining days working from home. Now, that situation has become a reality.
In this new setting of time split between remote work and office work, employees are positioned to do their best work wherever they are. The time saved from a commute a couple of days a week can provide some extra time to work on a project, or even some much-needed quality time with family members. And with the ability to spend extra time at home, employees can be more focused on their work when they are in the office.
Making the best of our new working conditions falls to everyone. Employers need to create a workspace where employees feel safe and can stay healthy. And employees need to do their part to oblige to the new guidelines set out by the CDC and their employer. When the organization works together to create a thriving work environment, the company will persevere.