In the twentieth century, tech brought people to the office — but now it’s sending them home. For decades, employees needed to go to the office to use the fax machines, computers, phones and files they needed to complete their work. A sense of community and easier management were just added benefits. Since the start of the pandemic though, employees and employers alike have realized that shared office space is not as necessary as it once was, and tech is the main reason.
From messaging apps, video conferencing platforms, and shared docs, technology has allowed people to leave the office behind and work from the comfort of their homes — and be just as, if not more, productive.
It has been reported that since March, 62 percent of employed Americans have worked from home. Last year only 25 percent of employed Americans worked from home. Although the switch from working in the office to working from home was forced and not optional in many regions, many companies have realized that, although not perfect, working from home has many benefits and many are considering maintaining work-from-home even after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.
One problem with working from home is the minimization of collaboration. Despite the various apps created to aid teams working from a distance, it is impossible to recreate the in-office experience. Managers have noted the lack of in-person conversations, inability to have daily run-ins in the hallways, and video meetings have negatively impacted creativity and company culture. For this reason, many businesses would opt to go back to the office at least part of the time instead of working exclusively from home.
Employees, on the other hand, report being more productive while working from home and 80 percent have enjoyed the time away from the office. One of the biggest benefits of working from home is the lack of a commute. Removing a daily commute to and from the office has created a better work/life balance which helps people decompress and feel ready for the next workday.
Will we ever go back?
If businesses do decide to go back to the office, there will need to be new measures in place to not only protect the health and wellness of employees but also create an environment that employees want to go back to.
The first decision businesses need to make is what the new function of the office will be. Will it be the same as it was pre-pandemic where the entire staff is present all the time, a hybrid model where employees can divide their time between work and home, or a collaborative space where employees only come in for meetings and training.
Whichever plan they pick, there will need to be new health and safety measures in place to protect staff and help people feel comfortable. Air filtration systems, touchless and contactless corridors, touchless technologies, carpooling programs to limit public-transit use, and increased sanitization are the most likely measures offices will need to implement to satisfy employees and health and safety committees.
The Rise of the Communal Office
Over the last decade, communal working spaces, like WeWork, have become more popular with young professionals, start-ups, and small businesses. Instead of having their office buildings, companies, or individuals, will opt to rent desks in a co-working space.
Many predict that communal offices will become even more popular after the pandemic. Companies have realized the benefits of employees working from home and now see offices as a place for communal work and training instead of everyday workspaces. Instead of paying monthly rent for entire office space, some organizations will opt to give up their big, expensive offices in urban centers, opting instead for smaller co-working spaces outside of city cores.