If you happen to work in an office, you can’t have failed to notice some drastic changes happening recently.
Over the past couple of decades, there haven’t been any major adjustments to how business has been done in offices. Since the adoption of word processors in the 80s and computers and the internet in the 90s, life has remained pretty much the same for the average desk worker.
More recently, some developments which had already been gradually taking hold have been fuelled by the global pandemic and subsequent lockdown measures, bringing in more widespread change.
Many of these enforced alterations have actually had a positive effect on the role of the office worker and are set to be adopted permanently by many employers – good news for those not looking forward to the return to the nine-to-five jobs they walked out of when lockdown measures came into effect a year ago.
So with the goal of “returning to normal” set for June 21, with the promise of all legal limits on social contact removed if safe to do so, what positives will become a lasting legacy of the last 12 months?
Although some forward-thinking companies were already beginning to offer working from home and flexible working hours as an option, most were unmoving in their belief it was essential to have the workforce all under one roof during standard office hours.
There seemed to be a firmly held belief that without this structure, productivity would go out of the window; however, a work-from-home mandate issued as part of the measure to control the spread of coronavirus put that notion to the test.
The results have been eye-opening, with home-workers actually putting in more work hours than they would have in the office. Employers are realising that offering some flexibility might not only increase productivity but could lead to a happier workforce and a reduction in workspace overheads.
The technology already available prior to the pandemic has been more widely adopted in order to facilitate working from home. This not only means workers have better software at their fingertips; it also means more investment from big tech companies to improve on what is already being offered.
This technology is helping to simplify processes, increase productivity and improve working conditions.
For example, EvolvIT, a UK hosted desktop services provider, offers businesses the option of virtual desktops, which can be accessed from anywhere in the world via an internet connection.
Along with this, a wider variety of communication technology, such as video-calling and even instant messaging, is being adopted as essential office software, making catching up with colleagues, customers, and everyone else, much less hassle.
While the option of working from home will become more commonplace, there are still strong arguments for keeping an office space, too, and the most common set-up will see workers adopting a mix of both home and office-based working.
This will bring about modifications to the traditional office, with down-sizing the most likely first step.
The design and layout will become more focused on the collaborative side of jobs, with spaces for colleagues to get together, brainstorm, and work together on finding solutions.
To make the commute more attractive to those with the option of staying at home and improving and maintaining workers’ health, office spaces will incorporate things like on-site cafes and gyms. They will make spaces more pleasant with the addition of plants and attractive decor and offer access to outdoor spaces.
Lockdown has helped people realise the things that really matter to them, highlighting the parts of life that they miss the most and realising what things they had been taking for granted.
While going into the office often felt like a chore, this change of attitude means the opportunity to meet colleagues face-to-face and have human interaction is now viewed as a luxury and something they will be looking forward to returning to.
A reduction in commuting, whether that’s to the office or going out for external meetings, has seen a big reduction in carbon emissions and with flexible-working options becoming the norm in the future, this should have a continuing positive effect on the environment.
Cleaner air is not just better for the environment; it positively affects people’s health, too, with evidence to suggest people with respiratory illnesses felt fewer symptoms when air pollution was reduced.
While the pandemic has brought about many negatives, and lockdown itself has at times been almost unbearable, it’s heartening to see how it has also brought about positive change. As everyone moves towards the end of restrictions, there are some good things to look forward to as well.