It seemed like a win-win. Employees escape their cubicles lit by fluorescent lights, and employers could save on property rental and utility costs. In addition, businesses were going 21st century and global. So much so that employers were being encouraged to let their workers stay at home, and guides aplenty were written on the benefits and how to make it work.
According to Time Magazine, 70% of the working population – those in non-essential or non-front-end jobs were working from home during the pandemic. In 2019, the figure stood at 20%. That’s an incredible increase, but it’s also a kind of unprecedented experiment in worker/business productivity.
Is it working? Companies and government institutions are starting to encourage a fearful population back into the office. So it is time to ask an important question.
Does it work from homework?
Companies such as IBM, Yahoo, and Best Buy are ending their WFH programs. Many find online or remote collaboration difficult compared to in-person office-based working teams. Even back in 2000, research by Judith Olson showed remote working was only effective if the team had worked together in the same office before and knew each other’s style and strengths.
Businesses are also finding that companies work better when people are together. Functional teams in the same room or office can better form a worthy ethic, style, and system to be successful. Atomizing employees into singular home working bubbles is just not working.
Many don’t want to give up WFH.
On the flip side, many workers love being away from the office. It’s not just because they can work on the sofa or raid the fridge at will, but because they feel free to focus on work and not lose time chatting. The opposing view states problems with WFH come down to:
- Poor training in terms of how-to video conference or work remotely.
- A lack of trust from supervisors and managers.
- Supervisors and managers are not being trained to manage remotely.
It is now possible employers and employees will begin legal action against one another. According to Forbes, many workers will quit if forced to WFH. While working with law firms such as Sutherland Lawyers, commercial disputes will cover work from home disputes and the suitability of commercial premises for post-pandemic office work. How do we bridge the divide between employers and employees?
Constructing a new kind of office
The solution is going to come in the form of intelligent commercial properties. As a result, the future of office construction will change. While many employers are going to be slow on the uptake, finding a way to match remote employee concerns with the benefits of office work will mean a massive change in the way things are done.
For example, we could see old buildings demolished and replaced with ones where workers have individual offices again. Gone will be the days of the cubicle and the open office plan. Instead, a safe, from a pandemic point of view, office complex which mixes private and collaborative spaces, green spaces, relaxing places for workers to get their work done, and where suitable, flexible WFH time will put businesses on the front foot.