The most immediate and obvious change is on that thorny subject of ‘working at home’, very popular with office workers on Fridays, less so with serious managers who expect you to be at your desk. Before coronavirus came along if you were working for an office-based business there was great reluctance and expectations of business cases to justify this ‘flexibility’. Of course, now we know differently. Practically any work that is not actually face to face provision of goods can be and has been done from home. Exceptions include facilities managers but they have only needed to keep an eye on the office once a week.
So what will change when we all go ‘back to work’? Firstly, who needs an office building? Perhaps they can be seen for the vanity projects that they are. If we can see this then we can start looking at the people themselves and develop people-focused businesses. Instead of fitting into office-based culture, companies can be looking at the better question of — ‘what’s it like to work for us?’ and negotiate on how and when we all work together. I can imagine the employer saying — ‘here’s our home-working bundle, everything you need to work from home.’ Companies can also start thinking about turning their buildings into live-work spaces, if they don’t sell them off.
One of the chief impacts on business, except in the food and online services sectors, has been a drastic fall in revenue, whether actual sales or decreased donations in the charity sector. Revenue falls of 20% or more over a year must equal job losses. As yet businesses will not have had time to establish how much less people resource they need to function in the post-covid world but savings will be made. Many support services will have been hit — front desk, office services, administration, secretarial. Efficient and better ways of working have begun to arrive slowly, our Zoom meetings are being recorded with accompanying permanent record of online chat. Hopefully, sanity has prevailed and meetings have become shorter and more effective now that everyone appreciates that they are, literally, a headache. The online meeting tools, and their constraints, should be bringing better facilitation and equality.
Hopefully, sanity has prevailed and meetings have become shorter and more effective now that everyone appreciates that they are, literally, a headache.
It’s a chance to start thinking about services rather than roles and introduce some proper evaluation of what is being done, some businesses are good at this already, others have hardly even started, whole sectors should be equipping themselves. Amongst all this there must be a move away from physical to digital letters and a reduction in financial paperwork, we are finally achieving the paperless office. I am currently without a printer at home and haven’t printed anything for three months. In the (near) future we need better use of scanning technology and digital ‘paper handling’.
But, the biggest impact must be on people themselves and the real question of ‘work/life balance’, not just talking about it. What if commuting really does become a thing of the past, who could possibly miss it! Cities, towns and even villages could begin to see the emergence of work hubs, as enjoyed by millennial ‘digital nomads’, offering both office and leisure/wellbeing services. Then we can all begin to think about adopting the four day working week.
New jobs will emerge — wellbeing coaches, visiting ergonomic consultants, meeting efficiency experts. However, the smart work will be around evaluating where we are, not limited to addressing problems and working within the constraints that are all too obvious, but identifying how we can work better for the sake of customers, staff, their families and the world.