“We all know that work will never be the same, even if we don’t yet know all the ways in which it will be different” – Stewart Butterfield, Slack co-founder, and CEO
With widespread vaccination meaning a return to some resemblance of normality (we hope), many of us are turning our thoughts to what the future world of work holds for us all. As Stewart Butterfield says, one thing we do know – things will never be the same again. But, what do we know so far about the future workplace and how employees will adapt to this new terrain?
Management has changed its thinking on the art of possible
We have a better understanding of how far the pandemic jolted businesses into embracing remote working and digitisation. Research by IBM tells us the pandemic has significantly changed how management thinks about work and the art of possible when working remotely. 66% of businesses report they have successfully completed initiatives that previously encountered resistance. And axioms about the power of face-to-face interactions have been proven to be wrong in the new normal.
The dispersed workforce
Some employees will never want to return to the office. Some employees can’t wait to get back. However, most employees will want flexibility of working from home and in the office. In fact, 72% of global knowledge workers said their preference is a hybrid way of working, according to Slack. The money companies save on office space could be used to invest in virtual offices, digital communication tools, and more flexible work schedules.
Reduced real estate and shared office space
Flexible/hybrid working environments will be the new normal. Businesses who want to reduce their real estate footprint are looking to share workspaces. These would be to accommodate their new contingent of dispersed workers, some of whom are moving out of the big cities and towns. Companies like Regus are expanding their network of offices. It reports demand is increasing in second-tier towns and cities like Plymouth and Uxbridge.
These types of central office hubs could be used by employees to meet with colleagues during the working week to collaborate together. Video calling is good for keeping connected but not so much for relationship-building, creating a sense of belonging and innovation. Social interaction in the real world will still be as important as ever.
Investing in the remote employee experience
Smart companies who save on office costs will build on investments already made in home working and technology benefits to create a better employee experience. They will also be rethinking how their employee benefits can better appeal to a dispersed, diverse workforce – wherever they work.
Certainty in an uncertain world
Let’s end on a certainty. There is no going back to the way we worked before the pandemic. We know that a dispersed workforce and hybrid working is the shape of things to come. What comes next? We’ll just have to wait to see.