The Future of Working from Home in a Post-Pandemic World

by | May 12, 2020

We’re currently living through history. In our grandchildren’s future, 2020 will very likely be on the curriculum, taught to school-aged children around the world. In truth, however, the effects of COVID-19 on the way the world will continue to work are largely unknown. What we do know, is that our ability to adapt is remarkable.

Nearly every country in the world has been locked down, and we’ve had to find new and innovative ways to work. In fact, around 60% of the UK population has worked from home during the pandemic, with an unprecedented rise in demand for video conferencing facilities, such as Zoom, Skype, Slack, and Teams. Microsoft has reported that the use of video calling on its Teams app increased to 75 million daily active users. Zoom noted 300 million meeting participants in April. All impressive numbers.

It all begs the question, what will be the future of working from home when the pandemic is over?

Has COVID-19 taught businesses a valuable lesson about flexibility?

Since the Flexible Working Regulations came into force in 2014, the attitudes of many employers towards working from home have softened. However, this is not true of every employer, with many still insisting that unless you’re at your desk at 7am and don’t leave for eight hours, then you’re simply not working hard enough.

With lockdown, however, came the need for two things, if businesses were to survive. The first is a more flexible and a trusting attitude from employers that have never been keen on the work from home model. And the second, for those that were wholly unprepared, is the need to invest in technology.

With millions of employees unable to physically attend work for several weeks, if not months, employers needed to adapt — and adapt instantly.

While it’s true that many thousands of employers were faced with no choice but to shut their doors and furlough their employers, some have been forced into implementing remote working measures that they may never have otherwise considered. And for those businesses, many will now be reassessing if remote working is something that’s here to stay.

Attracting a more diverse talent pool

Unsurprisingly, large technology firms such as Amazon, Google, and Microsoft were among the first to close their offices to employees in the US. With many reimbursing their people for setting up a home office. Twitter’s Head of HR, Jennifer Christie, recently told The Guardian, “Overall, working from home doesn’t change your day-to-day work, it just means you’ll be doing it from a different environment.” And, Matt Mullenweg, CEO of WordPress and Tumblr suggested that it “might also offer an opportunity for many companies to finally build a culture that allows long-overdue work flexibility.”

With technology giants leading the way and showing the world how global remote teams can truly work together, will COVID-19 spur on more companies to do the same? And, will that, in turn, add greater pressure to source the very best candidates from every corner of society?

The truth is, the health crisis will indeed force employers to think harder about their future hires. With the entire recruitment process now being done via video conferencing, many employers will stop feeling the pressure or necessity to hire locally. In fact, it could spur a fresh wave of thinking for diversity and inclusion, which might lead to greater opportunities for previously overlooked candidates, or those who might have been considering ‘impractical’ hires, until now.

How will the office change in 2020 and beyond?

With those of us that are heading back to normal office life — or whatever the new version of ‘normal’ is, there are likely to be some fundamental changes there, too. The tech giants like Google and Apple have told employees they can work from home for the remainder of 2020.

According to a recent article by Business Insider, office redesigns are needed, with disinfectants, social distancing, one-way hallways and sneeze guards, becoming part of our immediate future.

And, Barclays boss, Jes Staley, has recently told the BBC that the bank is revaluating how much office space will be needed in the future. He stated that “The notion of putting 7,000 people in the building may be a thing of the past.”

One thing’s for sure, coworking spaces will need a major rethink, which will cast even more doubt over the future of companies like WeWork.

Whatever happens next, there’s no doubt that the working world will never look the same again. And, if COVID-19 has taught us one thing, then it’s that flexible working is not only possible, it’s essential for our economy and the long-term future of businesses around the world. With the technology available today, there’s little reason why businesses shouldn’t be embracing the work from home generation. And those that don’t, probably won’t survive.

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