Saying that 2020 was a peculiar year is the understatement that all of us have gotten used to. Our lives have changed, our day-to-day habits have changed and our idea of normality has been transformed, perhaps, irreversibly. Going to the office from 9 to 5, between Monday to Friday has been an integral part of many of our lives for years. The pandemic has changed this all forever.
As the number of Covid-19 cases began to increase alarmingly around the world, governments began to impose lockdown in a bid to curb or at least limit, the number of cases. Schools were closed, non-essential stores stopped opening and all those that were deemed non-essential workers were to stay at home and if possible work from there. Almost overnight, large and small offices had to migrate their operations to a completely virtual environment. At first, we experienced the novelty of working from our sofa or in our pyjamas but this soon started to fade away as the days went on and many of us ended up working from home for months on end. Working in our pyjamas is no longer the exception but a regular occurrence.
EU estimates at the beginning of the pandemic indicated that as much as 40% of the European workforce started to work from home, with more than half having no prior experience with teleworking. As much as 9 out of 10 workers have indicated that they would like to work from home once the pandemic is over. It is safe to say that #WFH is here to stay.
The uptake of the teleworking practice had been slow for many years, but this seemingly changed overnight. While some businesses might have been previously reluctant to implement this practice, this new reality has shown that working from does not hinder productivity and efficiency. This is a fundamental and very important change in perception that will change the work forever.
The New Normal
So, what will the post-pandemic office look like? For starters, our concept of personal space is now different. We can say that the closely stacked desks or cubicles will progressively become a thing of the past.
Working from home has also meant that we are free to move around; we may start our day in our home office but we also have the possibility to take Zoom calls from the comfort of our sofa. This means that for many of us going back to a scenario where we sit at a desk for 8 hours is a no-go. Offices will increasingly be required to provide flexible working set-ups that enable workers to move around more freely. In other words, less rigid layouts and more varied working spaces with informal seating options.
It is also likely that our offices will be less crowded. After having a taste of the work from anywhere concept many individuals will be seeking job opportunities that allow them to work remotely or, at least, partially remotely. The change in employer perceptions will most likely mean that these flexible working arrangements will be offered more and more.
So, perhaps, if there is a silver lining to all that has happened is the shift towards a more flexible mind frame at work. It is too early to identify the long-term effects of this pandemic. However, we do know that our offices will never look and feel the same.