In 2021, we saw 62 percent of employed Americans work from home, a significant increase from last year. Government restrictions caused most companies to send their employees remote, causing companies to lean on technology to keep collaboration flowing. This shift in most people’s workplaces created new habits and norms. As the country continues to open and return to work, there will be new challenges presented upon returning.
The Covid-19 Pandemic is affecting what jobs people take and how secure they feel long-term. These unprecedented times are leading to transitions into different jobs. People are learning new skills to ensure that they can make the leap to their new employer. McKinsey Global Institute, a business and economics research company, estimates over 17 million people will be looking to find a new job in the United States by 2030, due to a growth in higher-paying jobs.
Remote Work Changes Post Pandemic
Just as employees started to settle into remote work, the country started opening up again, leaving many companies with the choice of having their employees go into the office or continue working from home.
The Hybrid Office
The idea of a hybrid office gained traction after the initial lockdowns ended. Some companies started bringing employees back into the office, but for two or three days a week, to try and regain a sense of normality. The other days were spent working from home. This work format can make it difficult to get into a routine at times. Each employee's schedule can also differ from those on their team and it could be hard to get on the whole team on the same page if everyone isn’t in the office together. Companies also are fighting the battle of paying normal building costs, as employees are only using the space for half of the week. Companies might want to consider if they are going to reimburse employees for electricity and internet connection used at home. These are decisions that should be considered in order to ensure that providing a hybrid office format makes sense for the company.
Some employees might have returned to the office, and some may have chosen not to. These decisions depend on health conditions or personal preferences. Offices can create programs or events that include virtual participation to be inclusive. Video conferencing is a great option, but it does not allow for the same collaboration as chatting in person does. In-person meetings naturally allow for better communication, fewer distractions, and better participation. Innovation can be severely affected when conversations move virtually if companies aren’t intentional about their execution. Companies will have to find a good balance during meetings when some employees are remote and some are in the office so everyone feels included in virtual meetings as if they were in person.
Working from home has granted more flexibility to employees, but as great as it may seem, it turns out that many are actually working longer hours. SHRM, an HR management company, found that almost 70 percent of employees who switched over to remote work during the pandemic now work on the weekends. The same survey also found out that 45 percent of respondents work more hours during the week when working remotely than they would if they were going into the office. During a time when the nation was more stressed than ever, we all worked more than ever. Companies and individual employees can help themselves by setting limits and boundaries for work. After all, employees do their best work when they are able to have a proper work-life balance.
In the Office Changes
The pandemic has changed everyone’s lives and, in turn, has affected what employees are looking for in an office space. Employees may expect the office layout to represent a COVID-safe way of conducting business. New furniture or office layout plans may need to be implemented to give each employee more personal space. Some may not feel comfortable in common areas without a mask or in general. Businesses may take on a hybrid method, and conference centers may need video conferencing or VR meeting technology to allow for virtual meetings. Making the most out of the time spent in person will be crucial. Employees may feel burnt out from working remotely and would still like a private space at work. According to CNBC, many companies are ditching traditional office buildings and are looking into private spaces and rooms that can be rented by the hour. This allows for more flexibility and lower overhead costs.
The pandemic has encouraged companies to learn more about the needs of their employees. Paying attention to the health concerns of employees will create an environment where everyone can feel comfortable. This may include installing hand sanitizer stations and providing a thermometer. Masks should also be available for anyone in the office. This makes strides towards ensuring each employee is comfortable and equipped to do their best work.
If customers or clients stopped their regular visits to the office before the pandemic, that may start ramping up again, but it may be smart to create safety guidelines. Several companies have started to limit the number of outside people visiting an office each day. Those who visit may also be required to wear a mask in certain areas. That is up to the discretion of the company. The daily routines of employees will be adjusted accordingly in order to keep people safe. Some may be annoyed by change, but things have changed since the pandemic occurred.
So... Remote, Hybrid, or In-Office
Many companies were forced to establish new normals as the workplace adapted. There is no perfect formula, but taking time to pick the option that best fits the company will pay off in the end. It is crucial to add in employee opinions when making decisions as well. As the world changes and years go by, the main constants in the workplace are people and technology. Those constants will continue to evolve and the relationship between each other will continue to help the world solve problems.
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