It seemed like it was just weeks into the pandemic when people were already questioning the future of work. Would offices be a thing of the past? Was remote work here to stay, and if so, what would it look like? Would workers adapt to this new normal without disrupting the work of business?
And here we are more than a year later, with the world slowly opening back up thanks to the power of vaccines, and we are finally beginning to get some answers to these questions. In a word, the answer to all of the questions posed above is “yes”.
There is no doubt that the effects of the pandemic on the professional workplace will have a lasting impact on the way we work. We will all be able to someday tell younger generations about the days of yore when we went to offices five days per week. But just how they will be impacted and what business leaders need to consider is still being sorted out.
As business leaders look to define what a hybrid work environment means for their businesses and their employees, let’s dive a bit deeper into these questions posed.
Will Offices Be a Thing of the Past?
While few organisations have made the decision to move to a 100% remote workforce in response to the pandemic, there is enough evidence to indicate that the office as we once knew it will indeed be a thing of the past. This is evidenced by Lloyds Bank who announced that they will be reducing their office space by 20% and supporting a remote work environment.
In addition to organisations making these changes, the pandemic has also changed the way workers think about a full-time return to the office, which will surely impact the way our offices take shape post-pandemic. 35% of workers expect to work from home 2-3 days per week in the UK alone.
While there will be some roles that will require more office time, and there will be those who prefer to head back to the office (more so for daily human interaction and socialising), the offices we once knew will change, and that change will be permanent.
Is Remote Work Here to Stay?
Based on the research noted above, it may seem safe to say that remote work is here to stay. I believe that almost everything has an ebb and flow, but things just continue to flow in certain cases. While the pandemic greatly increased remote working, it did not cause it by any means.
Multiple research reports that came out pre-pandemic show that remote work was gaining popularity, and the trend was already underway. And why not? The technologies we have at our fingertips today enable us to work remotely, and younger generations who value independence and freedom see this as an opportunity to cash in on that desire.
The majority of professionals were involved in a long work from home experiment, which most of them came to enjoy. Their preference will win the day and keep remote work in the form of a hybrid environment here to stay.
Will Workers Adapt to the New Normal of Hybrid Work?
As with any shift in the professional marketplace, some pros and cons present themselves. The new world of hybrid work is no different, and as many want more time to work from home, leaders need to be keenly aware of a few things.
While 56% of UK workers report being happier when working from home, 53% also say they feel the need to be available at all times. This is not an optimal work environment and will quickly lead to frustrated and dissatisfied employees.
It is not just employees who are responsible for their productivity and well being in a new hybrid environment. An organisations leadership has a responsibility to tend to the welfare and well-being of their staff. Putting pressure on employees to be available at all hours is detrimental and will only cause more dysfunction in the workplace.
In addition to the added mental stress that the majority feel, new medical research shows the rising impact on physical health that overwork is causing.
If employees are going to truly adapt to spending part of their time away from the office in a hybrid environment, they and their leadership need to define clear boundaries on what is acceptable in terms of availability.
The new world of hybrid workplaces will be an experiment unto itself with much learning to be had. My advice to all involved, give it time, be agile in the approach and be open to change as we are still all in this together.