Coronavirus outbreak has turned our lives upside down. Amongst many other things, this pandemic is also a massive experiment in remote work. Companies and workers had to quickly adapt to the new reality and shift to working from home style. Currently, almost more than a half workforce around the globe is working from home.
Based on the number of people infected around the globe, the wave of the coronavirus pandemic seems to be stabilizing. As a response to it, governments are starting to slowly re-open the economy. Various businesses in different countries are now allowed to continue working as usual. Beauty salons, bars and restaurants are starting to welcome their first clients after the pandemic. However, with the risk of the second wave companies that can work remotely are still encouraged to continue doing so.
Even when we are back in our offices, things will not be the same again. Many predict that workplaces will change for forever. Some people even say that remote work will be the “new normal.” Without a doubt, work will change after the coronavirus, but how? We tried to assess the impact of coronavirus and answer the question that is bothering us all. What will happen to work when the coronavirus pandemic is finally over.
Remote work is here to stay
We can surely say that the remote work will not disappear, even when the pandemic ends. Companies like Facebook and Google have announced that their employees can work from home during 2020. While Twitter CEO has even stated that workers can work remotely for forever if they want to. Of course, not all companies can work remotely. Many jobs require workers to be physically present at the offices. But the companies that can work remotely at least partially will continue doing so. It has something to do with the current epidemic situation and the growing popularity of remote jobs.
Before the coronavirus outbreak, the remote work was a growing trend. From 2005 to 2017 it grew by 159% in the United States. People were searching for remote jobs, and as a response, big companies started creating them. The idea of remote work seemed to be beneficial for both parties, employers and employees. And even then, people would say that the remote was the future of the work. While companies were testing the remote work at their own pace, the pandemic fastened the processes.
The Becker Friedman Institute tried to find out how many jobs can be done entirely from home in the United States. According to the research, the answer is 37. This number can be somewhat similar in developed countries, meaning that, at least some portion of jobs do not require employees to be at the offices at all. However, the number is lower in lower-income countries.
Employers and employees started seeing the benefits of remote work
The attitude of the workers towards remote work seems to be positive too. While some employees report negative feelings, such as loneliness, isolation and reduction of productivity, the overall trend is positive. IBM surveyed over 25,000 adults in April, to see their perspective on various issues, including remote work. According to the polls over 54 per cent would like remote work to be their primary work style. At the same time, 75 per cent of respondents stated they would like to work remotely at least occasionally. The results are not surprising. For workers, remote work means fewer daily cost, less stress and overall, better work-life balance.
Companies started seeing the benefits of having remote workers too. They can halve the real estate and operational costs if there are fewer workers in the office. With employees wanting to work remotely and employers seeing opportunities in it, it is expected that at least some of the jobs will be done entirely remotely.
Another reason why companies will maintain remote work at some level is the epidemic situation. While countries and offices are starting to re-open, we are still in fear of a second wave of the outbreak. The uncertainty will continue at least until we have an effective vaccine available for masses. Before that, companies will have to do their best to avoid crowded offices. Meaning, that many will choose to let part of their workforce work from home.
Companies will invest more in technology
Since companies today highly depend on the technologies, it is surprising how few of them were ready to switch to work from home style instantaneously. Many of them suffered to provide proper IT infrastructure to their employees to keep business as usual. The situation they found themselves in was a wake-up call for many businesses.
To keep working effectively companies had to find quick solutions that would enable them to start working remotely as soon as possible. But as things are slowly going back to normal, business owners and managers understand the need for having proper IT infrastructure.
We do not know when the coronavirus outbreak will end, and how the future work will be like. Thus, businesses understand that things are going to change and being adaptive, and flexible, is crucial for surviving on the market. Due to this, companies will actively invest in IT solutions and services.
It means having IT infrastructure in place that allows teams to work from anywhere without interruption, IT security protocol, cybersecurity more. But setting up IT infrastructure is not for the workflow only. It has an enormous effect on team efficiency. Hence, the usage of remote connection tools will grow. Businesses will start implementing tools for communication, collaboration and task delegation more actively. It will help them create a better, more efficient and safer working environment for their employees.
Our offices will not be the same again.
Many of us, including myself, miss being at the office. However, if you cannot wait to go back to the office, you need to know that it might not be the same. And I do not mean the need of maintaining 2 meters distance at all times, going to work with facemasks, and even awkward elbow bumps instead of a handshake. In many countries, companies need to follow government guidelines for opening offices. Managers will have to control the crowd, not have many workers in the room at the same time and ensure physical distancing. These measures seem to be temporary, however, the pandemic might have a longer and deeper effect on office spaces.
After the pandemic, the arrangement of the offices might change. The growing popularity of the bigger spaces will continue. But the demand for the agile workplace arrangement will go down. It is because workers will prefer to have desks assigned for them. Like this, it will be easier for them to keep their workplace clean and safe. As many companies will let workers work remotely even after the pandemic, there will be no need of having huge offices. Instead of working places, offices can be just places for team meetings and conferences.
More remote jobs will appear
For a long time, business owners were afraid of having remote employees or teams. The fear is indeed valid. Having remote teams require a certain level of trust in employees. It is not easy to hire and manage a person without proper face-to-face communication. In many cases, it can be hard enough to manage long-time employees from home.
Team management was indeed one of the biggest challenges for many companies. But the coronavirus pandemic made it unavoidable. CEOs and top managers had to be quick to adapt to the new reality and maintain the same results. Those companies who managed to be quick and efficient in it now see the possibility of having remote teams after the pandemic. To them, this is a whole new opportunity. It gives them access to the worldwide talent pool. Due to this, companies will not feel limited to hire employees in their city. Instead, they will be able to hire professionals from around the globe. It will create more remote work and the culture of working remotely will grow further.
Communications will be more instant and open.
The way we communicate at work will change too. As we are stuck at home, all our communication is online. No more endless meetings at the conference rooms, face-to-face talks or even chit-chatting at the water cooler. Today everything is happening in Skype, Teams, Slack, even in messenger. The company meetings are happening in zoom now. Meetings that could have been emails, are emails.
There’s a very low chance that it is going to go back to “old normal” when we are back at the offices. Especially if part of the team will still work remotely. The post-pandemic work will require more open and instant communication. Most of the matters will be discussed with instant messages or quick calls. Since the team will not work from the office fully, video calls will replace face-to-face communication.
However, it is not a bad thing. Building a healthy working culture is possible even when the communication is online. Open communication will urge a better understanding and deeper collaboration. Companies that will be able to build a new working style will be able to benefit a lot from it.
What will the future work look like?
Change is inevitable. How we work is changing and will continue to do so. However, while the coronavirus outbreak urged us to implement quick changes, companies now will have to thoughtfully meet the new reality. The forecast of the pandemic and workers attitude towards remote work shows that many companies will have to implement new working policies at some level. It will be a hybrid between the office and remote work
Companies cannot avoid the need for remote work policies, at least in foreseeable future. At the same time, some companies will no longer ignore the benefits of remote work. However, as not many of them will be able or willing to go remote for forever, they will decide on having a mix of it. Workers that can work from home will be encouraged to do so. The office will be for employees that either need to be physically present in the office
It is still early to talk about the results and consequences of these changes. But it can help many workers around the world bring flexibility into their daily working lives and reach the needed work-life balance. It will also widen the employment market, as there will be no geographical constraints. As it seems now, the future of the work will be at least semi-remote. Many believe that it was the direction we were slowly going to. The coronavirus pandemic simply accelerated the process and made it irreversible.