The coronavirus pandemic has forced many of us to fundamentally alter the way we live our lives. One of the major changes we have seen is to our working conditions, with large numbers swapping the office for the comfort of their own homes. In the United States, for example, it’s thought that the proportion of people working from home rose from 5% to 60% in the early weeks of the pandemic.
It has been a similar story around the world, with businesses across all sectors forced to re-evaluate their policies and adapt accordingly. In the UK, the vaccination rollout continues to provide optimism that we can soon rediscover a more sociable way of life, but will that extend to the return of the workplace and seeing our colleagues in person?
Evidently, it suits some industries more than others. An owner of a hair or beauty salon, for example, needs a physical space and the appropriate equipment in order to serve customers, whereas an employee in a digital marketing agency can write content, undertake technical reviews, create email marketing campaigns and carry out all manner of tasks from a remote environment.
But after more than a year of doing our jobs from home, many feel it’s a change that’s here to stay. So, what are the advantages and drawbacks? How will businesses adapt and what exactly does the future hold?
The pros and cons of working from home
One of the great benefits of working from home is the added flexibility it brings. For example, those who previously had a lengthy commute no longer have to endure that journey twice a day. And for those with kids, being at home can prove hugely useful when it comes to looking after the little ones. There are also advantages for the businesses, who may have been able to drastically reduce overheads by ending their lease or rent agreement.
There are negatives too, of course, in that some people may not have a suitable space within their home from which they can work productively. Others may find it difficult to concentrate in a non-professional environment, while communication between colleagues, teams and departments can also prove tricky – especially when each individual is at the mercy of their internet connection.
What if businesses demand a return to the office?
It seems that most companies will be happy to adopt these new working conditions on a regular basis. However, there may be some that yearn for a return to the pre-pandemic days and are set to ask their employees to come back to the office once it’s deemed safe to do so. This could cause problems on a couple of fronts.
Some people may still feel uneasy about re-entering a busy indoor space while the virus remains a threat, while others may have enjoyed the flexibility of working from home and see no reason to alter their routine once more. This could cause resentment towards the decision-makers.
How can businesses adapt to ‘the new normal’?
Instead, organisations may offer their employees completely free choice as to where they work. Others may be happy to arrive at some form of middle ground, such as policies which require staff to be in twice or three times a week. Anecdotal evidence suggests that a compromise would seem to suit the majority, but what’s important is that businesses take the time to speak to their employees first, get a feel for their preferences and then put a plan in place accordingly.