The COVID-19 pandemic caused a massive disruption in the way people work. Even after this pandemic ends, things will never be the same. Just a few months ago, many managers were faced with the question of how to quickly adjust to a short-term shift from most employees working in the office to most working at home. They are now faced with considering a long-term change that may mean the old way of working will never truly return. As remote work opportunities increase, the office, as we know it, will never be the same. Will this lead to a new type of mobile company without an office? Time will tell.
The conference room has been abandoned, the office chairs are empty, and the canteen is closed. It took almost no time at all for bustling office buildings to turn into ghost towns during the Coronavirus pandemic. In the era of social distancing, organizations sent their employees home to work while coordinating via online conferences, chats, and emails. Never before had so many people worked from their homes simultaneously, and yet the technology was able to keep up.
Employees' ability to adapt became evident quickly after remote work was transitioned to near the beginning of the pandemic. As a result, thousands of people, forced to work from home, are able to perform their jobs as well as they could do them in the office - or even better. Work from home is possible and profitable, as workers have proven. Thus, some big companies, mainly technology-oriented, are embracing remote work permanently, such as Facebook, Upwork, and Slack.
Nevertheless, many others are advocating either part-time or full-time employment in the office. Having seen that we can work efficiently from home and developed methods for keeping in touch with colleagues, what is the purpose of the office - and can we make it appealing? The question is looming, and businesses are looking for answers.
Short Term Solutions
When restrictions and stay-at-home orders started disrupting daily work, many employers were forced to quickly find ways of running a company without an office. Managers and their teams worked together to piecemeal together short-term solutions. Many of them had limitations that had to be worked out as the temporary nature of working from home dragged on. At the same time the effectiveness and efficiency of working from home are improving, questions continue regarding when people can return to the office and what that might look like with reduced office capacity and social distancing requirements.
In light of the increasing popularity of the home or mobile office, no additional large office spaces are being purchased or rented at the moment. Although working from home may eventually replace the office, it's difficult to imagine that it will completely replace it. With new teams to put together and new employees to recruit from a distance, it could be a challenge. After the Coronavirus crisis, it will be important for employers and employees to communicate effectively again.
Because of social distancing measures, all new employees may actually require more space. There will be more space needed in offices with more cubicles, as well as larger offices with fewer desks and more space. Additionally, relocating companies who need a new office may not necessarily be considering downsizing. As offices face renewed competition from the home office, they must be appealing enough for workers to choose it over working from home. Employers can increase employee loyalty by redesigning their offices. If they want to increase staff satisfaction, they need to put their effort into this.
Nothing Will Change Soon
Many employers are just getting used to the idea of running a company without an office for some time. Companies like Google and Facebook have already decided to extend remote work opportunities, continuing work-from-home policies to late this fall or early next year. Meanwhile, workers are getting used to the idea of staying home. According to Gallup, three in five U.S. workers who have been working from home would prefer to have remote work opportunities continue and work remotely as much as possible.
If, in fact, employers allow their employees to work partially from home, or to make exchanges between employees in the office, the above problems will not be so bad then. There will be no need to rent larger spaces as employees will work shifts in the office. So as you can see, we may not even realize how much we like remote work.
In addition, businesses will be able to retain their appeal by bringing in innovative ideas. For example, workers can come and go more freely and there will be an infrastructure that allows for communication. After the economy recovers from the shock caused by the Coronavirus, this will become even more pressing.
In some ways, the move to more remote work forced by the pandemic was, in effect, just accelerating a change that has been in motion for some time. The modern idea of remote work can be traced back to 1994 and an experiment with 32,000 AT&T workers. It has continued to grow as advances in technology have made it easier for people to complete their work and stay connected no matter where they are. Broadband internet, more powerful, inexpensive computing hardware, cloud-based project management software, remote desktop software, and advanced video conferencing software have made it easier than ever to work with a team no matter where people are located.
Products like LiveWebinar combine multiple tools into one easy to implement platform. Employees can stay connected to each other and clients with online meetings, streaming webinars, and collaboration tools like whiteboards, chat, and breakout rooms.
Companies were already adopting these new tools and the flexibility that came from them. But the pandemic forced them to adapt and change more quickly. Before the pandemic, there was often a stigma related to working remotely, sometimes seen as just an excuse to do less work. Now, with no other option, companies realize that, in many cases, workers can find increased productivity out of the office.
Finding the Right Tools
It will be a long time before offices can even begin to return to their role as the hub of business activity. And what we will likely find is that things will never be the same. Some companies will still maintain offices for employees whose work is more effective in close proximity to others. For others, there may be an office option. However, it is likely that, from now on, more people than ever will continue to work remotely. This means that it is essential for managers to find and implement the right tools to keep their employees working efficiently and collaborating no matter where they are. Whether people are working from an office, home, or a coffee shop, they need tools like LiveWebinar that allow them to bridge the difference and stay connected.
So, do companies still need offices? Will the mobile company without an office be the new normal? We will have to wait and see. However, we can be sure things will never be quite the same.