The Coronavirus pandemic unwittingly started the largest work-from-home experiment in human history, forcing companies, both large and small, to try their hand at remote working practices in order to keep their employees safe and to control the spread of the virus. Whether they wanted to or not, employees found themselves having to swap the structure of their previous office life for video conference calls and digital collaboration, but as lockdowns begin to ease will we be returning back to the old office 9-5?
Is working from home the future?
Prior to COVID-19 complete remote working was still seen as somewhat of a ‘radical’ practice and was largely left to new-age companies or startups who couldn’t yet afford their own office space. Virtually overnight, this antiquated viewpoint had to change, and we saw the single largest shift to remote-working that has ever been recorded. Over the course of the following months, companies spent millions of dollars on equipment and software to facilitate effective remote working practices, and, once they had gotten used to their new remote roles, many have begun to see the benefits of working from home, not only on their employees but also on their business.
The benefits of working from home
There’s a reason why working from home has been offered as an employee perk by companies for decades – it’s something people want and like to do. For employees the chance to work from home can help them to better control their work-life balance, it can help them to more easily navigate things such as childcare, and it can also reduce their stress levels by taking away their commute and replacing it with time that they can use for themselves. A happier employee is also often a more productive employee and so it may not come as a surprise that those who are allowed to work from home also tend to produce better quality work and are more productive for their companies. From a business perspective, having a remote workforce can help to cut back on costs such as office rent, while also building profit margins and helping to improve employee retention and so as a result, some companies who have adopted remote working during COVID-19 are planning on keeping it in place even after the pandemic ends – but will this work for everyone?
Remote working is not for everyone
Sadly, it would be foolish to assume that remote working, especially permanently and in the longer term, is going to work for everyone. Some people lack the space they need at home to build a proper working environment, resulting in more distractions and difficulty keeping up with day-to-day tasks, especially when surrounded by their family life too. For others, it can be difficult to find self-motivation when the lines of work and home are blurred, resulting in a decrease in productivity and difficulty switching off at the end of the working day, leading to stress and anxiety. The social aspect of office working also cannot be overlooked, with many employees relying on their coworkers for companionship and friendship, something that is harder to imitate virtually and online.
Is there a middle ground
The good news is that there is a middle ground, one which allows those who thrive while working from home to continue doing so, while also catering to those who prefer the structure of being in an office, and the answer is coworking spaces. Rather than returning to privately owned office spaces, companies could instead invest a portion of their rental budget into hiring a number of coworking desks, or purchasing their employees passes to a coworking space.
Why coworking combined with remote working could be the way forward
Remote investments are not lost
As previously stated, many businesses invested heavily in remote communications software and remote devices for their employees. Something that they will not want to waste in the future. By combining co-working and remote working, these tools and investments are not made redundant and the skills managers have learned during COVID-19 with regard to managing a remote workforce can still be utilized.
Access to face-to-face space
Whether a start-up software company, large scale marketing firm or independent lawyer, coworking spaces are designed to have the facilities that a range of businesses need to get the job done. On the days where face-to-face meetings need to take place, coworking spaces provide professional-looking meeting rooms and work-areas for businesses to work from.
Although there may be days when everyone needs to come into the office, on more relaxed occasions, a combined co-working and remote strategy allows employees to choose whether they want to work from the office or work at home, depending on where they feel they will be most productive.
The option to socialize
Co-working spaces are great for socializing as they also allow employees to interact with people from outside of their organization. By having access to a coworking space, even those who love remote working are able to come in and to attend company functions or events and can maintain their work relationships.
Sympathetic to everyone’s situation
And lastly, giving employees the option to work from an office, or from home, makes a business stand out as committed to the welfare of their employees, by being sympathetic to their different personal situations. This means that those employees who cannot, or who do not like, to work from home for whatever reason are not forced to move company, while allowing those who can and do like remote working to continue working in an environment that they thrive in.
COVID-19 has allowed more people than ever to taste the benefits of remote working and many companies have thus decided to implement more permanent work from home practices even after the pandemic ends. Although this will benefit some people it fails to account for those who do not like to work remotely or cannot do so effectively due to their personal circumstances. Co-working combined with remote working privileges provides an answer by allowing employees to choose the environment that they work best in.