How will work change after Covid-19?

The world will get past the current Covid-19 crisis but just how much will our work environment and interactions have changed as a result. Will we revert to the way things were before? Should we or will we even be able to? You can read my previous thoughts on whether the current situation will bring about positive change here.

HRs should already be thinking ahead.  They’ve helped crisis manage the current situation, helped ensure that businesses are able to cope in the current situation, both in terms of co-ordinating the relevant resources but also ensuring that people are engaged and have all they need to manage right now.

Many businesses are now running and functioning with the majority, if not all, of its people working remotely.  This virtual way of working has been subtly increasing over the past few years but within a matter of weeks has been rolled out universally.  Do we truly have the infrastructure to work remotely?  How is the capacity of hardware coping?  Is it sustainable?

Remote working presents opportunities but pitfalls – reduced commute time, more focused working and use of one’s time means we can often see an increase in productivity; however, we shouldn’t underestimate the need for social and human interaction.  As good as tele and video conferencing can be it’s often not a replacement for that personal contact, seeing the whites of someone’s eyes.

I suspect we will see a larger majority of organisations be more comfortable with people working remotely in the future.  In China, the notion of home working has been introduced for the first time, in many instances. We will also see a move to more flexible office space? Where organisations consciously move to smaller offices, increasing meeting space and shared desking. If an organisation employees 500 people, no longer will it need to provide working space for all 500 – remote and home working will mean office costs can be cut drastically. The flip side will be to ensure that those working remotely not only have the right equipment and technology but that it’s fit for purpose.  In the UK, we’ll need to see a significant investment in our broadband infrastructure and mobile networks to pick up the additional load.

For some, being on their own will be something they will appreciate and make the most of, others much prefer to be with colleagues. Add to this the current restrictions, the tensions and stresses, individuals coping strategies and in some cases the requirement to providing home schooling or care?   If the future of work means more home working, organisations will have to get better at supporting their staff both in their mental well-being but also enabling them to truly balance their work and home lives.  For many, working from home poses a major problem – they find it difficult to delineate between work and home life and work becomes ever more pervasive.  I can foresee organisation’s introducing rules to support remote and home workers, such as no emails and no calls outside of hours (there are already technical solutions for this).  The right to disconnect will become more and more important.  ‘Always on’ technology can be insidious.

Overall, I envision many organisations becoming more relaxed about remote working, much the same as they have with dress code. You do not need to be in the office to be productive – if you have the right technology, it matters not where the work gets done.

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