The biggest home office experiment of all time is still underway. Some think the office will revive, others don’t want it to…we discuss the future of working from home versus the traditional 9-5.
Article by Victoria Wood
This past year has brought with it many challenges, one of which being the exponential number of people being forced to work from their homes. This has conjured up much anxiety, stress, difficulty and life-juggling as people aim to combine home life with work life.
For many this has provided a new and improved working environment and life situation; travel costs are non-existent, time spent working can be maximised, employer costs are cut by vast amounts and many workers are enjoying a new found freedom (of sorts) from the comforts of their own home.
The urban dictionary has added ‘WFH’ as a staple to their vocabulary as ‘working from home’ becomes a fundamental part of the ‘new normal’. But will the world of the traditional office lifestyle ever revive as before? Or has it been given a redundancy package or perhaps early retirement?
There are a great many benefits to support WFH with employees being able to reduce overheads by needing less permanent office space, equipment, and facilities. Environmentally, if less people are travelling to and from a work space, traffic reduces, congestion on public transport lessens, and rush hour becomes a historical concept.
Difficulties continue to arise worldwide, however, as working from home is the only option during lockdown/restricted living. Power deficiencies and access to fast enough bandwidth being minor details that were soon overcome in some regions, yet many countries still face infrastructural issues. Those with young children and a sudden lack of childcare, or schooling facilities, are faced with the continual disruptions to their work day as parents are having to assist with homeschooling. Once lockdowns lift and schools and daycare centres are allowed to function as normal, this issue should reduce.
Working from home brings about the issues that surround the lack of face to face interaction during meetings or office camaraderie. Not having physical colleagues on hand to discuss pressing issues with, having no-one to physically go to for assistance or ideas, and the mental attitude that comes with actually ‘going’ to work are all missing in a life where the office remains at home. Are employees as productive when subjected to a WFH environment?
Where the physical office space reduces as a constant, many people who have the option are turning to co-working spaces to limit the issues that arise while trying to find a quiet, comfortable and effective place to work in the home. This solution can help to meet adaptation needs should the office become, and remain, a thing of the past. That said, there are still many people who are enjoying the idea of having more flexible hours and no longer having to factor in a commute.
Studies show that from the employee point of view there are many positives to the ‘death of the office’, to the extent that they may well promote the concept of continuing to work from home as standard.
The real issue here is that when the choice is something that once again becomes available; i.e. whether to oppose or condone physical offices, it all comes down to the individual company, employer, employee, freelancer, self-employed person, etc. in question. What works best for that individual situation? For example, perhaps for some companies having a fleet of workers who contribute from their own homes and meet in a shared space once a week is the optimum effective solution for them, yet this would not work for another who would require workers to be on-site at all times. There are many variables to consider and it can’t really ever be declared that one way suits all; this could be the outcome of the trials and tribulations of the COVID-19 affected work situation.
Once thing we can be certain of is that we are all capable of and subject to change, reassessment, and adaptation as circumstances alter across the world and within our own lives. Whether we ever end up setting foot in an office again, we will always have that!
The idea that the office is completely dead seems to be naive. There are many factors which point to the necessity for some companies to continue to work in a traditional office workplace, these have not changed but have temporarily been made impossible to carry out. Temporary solutions do not mean that they will simply become permanent just because they worked out during times of desperation. However, the realisation that in some cases combinations of these new solutions with the traditional working ways of the past may well provide some conditions which hadn’t previously been tried and tested, and serve a positive purpose for the future.
Bottom line: we cannot assume that the office is dead just yet, the temporary may not become the permanent, but what we can be sure of is that adaptations may prove to be valuable and more effective and continue to be applied in the work place, wherever that may be!