Lockdown has caused a huge shift in the way we work. New research from O2 found that a third (33%) expect to remote work from home for at least three days a week after lockdown. A staggering 81% expected to work remotely at least one day a week.
The sudden disruption which has necessitated office workers adapt to working remotely has not been without its challenges. Companies have scrambled for the right IT, communication tools and social infrastructure to replace the lack of face-to-face contact usually experience in the physical office.
But, in among the doom and gloom of this global pandemic, there’s a silver lining. The lockdown has afforded many an opportunity to positively reassess how we can be productive and efficient in our workstyles. As many of us adjust to this new way of working we examine five reasons why the new normal is set to be a better normal when it comes to the office of the future.
1. There will be a radical shift in where we work
It is clear to see that remote working brings with it a wide range of benefits for employees and employers alike. At home employees can often take advantage of heightened focus, fewer distractions and better productivity, which means more work gets done efficiently and can benefit the bottom line.
Research shows that 55% workers said their productivity levels were boosted due to the additional free time in their day, and 44% said that they had fewer distractions at home. The current climate means that remote working is no longer a privilege of the past and the working world will inevitably see a permanent shift towards remote working styles post-pandemic.
2. The corporate steel-and-glass skyscraper is no more
The lockdown has marked an inflexion point for the standard commute. We’re used to travelling into city centres to work in steel-and-glass or brick-and-mortar offices. But the office of the future is set to be more of an abstract concept – it can be located anywhere with the connectivity provided by tech for remote working.
Research shows that 62% of respondents find the increase in flexibility has helped them to focus more on work. The success of remote working for urban companies means employers will be less incentivised to pay expensive overheads on central and expensive lets, potentially migrating out to further afield business parks and more relaxed spaces for any physical premise needs. We’re already seeing brands like TetraPak moving to hybrid of work, split between home and office, proving that remote working is certainly here to stay.
3. Digitalisation is no longer just a buzzword
Lockdown has well and truly kicked digitalisation into fifth gear. Businesses are recognising the heightened need for business continuity and collaboration across projects.
When it comes to digitalisation, many only consider the software side of things, disregarding the hardware considerations until they need to. Research indicates that despite 82% of employees preferring to work remotely one day a week or more after the COVID-19 crisis is over, nearly a third (28%) were not equipped with the necessary hardware in order to work productively from home.
Take it from Google – scrambling pre-lockdown to purchase tech products like laptops and keyboards in bulk to ensure employees are equipped to work from home is not the best approach. As we consider the reality of remote working in the long-term, businesses need to start investing heavily in IT supply and ask employees directly what tech fits their individual departmental needs to ensure they are set up for success.
Whether it’s dual screens, an ergonomic keyboard, or a docking station, employers must ensure their employees are well-equipped to work productively at home. Ideally, tools should offer a quiet, distraction-free environment, accommodate video calls at a moment’s notice and limit physical strain and stress.
4. We have upped our daily dose of tech
The past few months have seen industries that have traditionally been averse to change embracing tech tools and solutions to work better digitally. We’ve seen people turn to conferencing platforms like Zoom for uses ranging from remote university to telemedicine and even the weekly pub quiz.
The retail industry is one that has taken tech adoption a step further with retailers exploring how innovations such as AR and VR can create touch-free buyer experiences to safely entice customers back to brick-and-mortar stores. Research shows that consumers are geared up to making use of tech-enabled solutions such as self-scanning tills or an app that could be used to scan products and pay for them when in-store. This could mark the start of a golden age for digital retail.
It is clear to see that tech permeates nearly every aspect of our lives and the lockdown has helped us as a society to recognise and appreciate the value of technology as a mainstay in the way we live.
5. Flexibility will define the office of the future
As lockdown measures begin to lift, we will once again face a new normal – one that involves employees to split time between home, office and venues in a socially distanced way. Commuting will not look the same either. Protection and portability will be critical for the commute 2.0.
Some more fortunate employees are setting up comfortably in their homes, yet many will continue to work in makeshift conditions from sofas, dining tables and even multi-purpose ironing boards. No matter your work set-up, tech can help create a conducive environment to work from. You may not have an ideal work set-up at home, but there are many innovative solutions on the market for functional audio, ergonomic and computer set ups in spaces big and small. However, setting up the home office is only the first phase of workstyle digitalisation. In the near future employees will need to flit between home and office set ups as the return to the office kickstarts again.
Employees will need to be agile in every sense. They need to be equipped with travel-ready tech as we move into the next phase of work. When commuting starts up a hybrid and agile approach will likely prove popular – combining the best advantages from remote working and office working.
An innovative solution to this is having your ‘desk in a bag’. Portable and easy to plug-and-play tech accessories such as keyboards and smart devices will be in enabling employees to work effectively anywhere and anytime. Tech should be portable enough such that work travels with you, rather than you travelling to work.
On our way to a better normal
Lockdown is still sending ripples through industries around the globe. The changes that have been wrought on the world of work show that we are capable of surviving and thriving despite it all. It’s likely that, as we continue to press on with business as usual, a hybrid approach will prove popular for the future worker, who will enjoy splitting time between home and office. This will perhaps be the best way forward for variety, mental wellbeing, efficiency and productivity.