The Future of Work has always been a hotly discussed topic in 2020 BC (Before Coronavirus), but the future is now. So what does it mean in 2020 AD (After Disease)?
This is the first of a series of articles looking into how, what was previously regarded as “the Future of Work”, has transformed our daily working lives post-pandemic. We will explore how businesses have adjusted, entrepreneurs have found new opportunities and which changes are here to stay. In this article, we focus on where we work.
The pandemic has unleashed the world’s largest remote working experiment upon us with ONS data in April 2020 suggesting approximately 50% of the UK workforce has been working remotely (vs 30% in 2019) and in the process accelerated us into a new world of work.
Is this new world, one with redefined working norms and more receptive to change, here to stay?
Where and how we work?
A recent study by office space platform Hubble shows that we may only need 34% of the office space we had before, with employees valuing the lack of commute, financial savings and ability to spend time with loved ones. At the same time, over 50% of respondents to the Founders Forum report state productivity has increased as a result of working from home.
Given the cost-savings and employee preferences – with 97% of workers who experience remote work recommending it to others, becoming ‘remote-first’ may become more mainstream. There are however some interesting ways companies are approaching a more hybrid approach.
Match making underutilised spaces to workers
The changing landscape has spurred innovation in the ‘proptech’ landscape. One of many new initiatives specifically catering to increasing companies looking for flexible solutions are platforms such as AndCo and Tally which match underutilised space in hotels, restaurants and cafes to employees looking to hotdesk.
Sanj Mahal Founder & CEO of AndCo explained “COVID-19 has accelerated the “work from anywhere” workplace model. WFA could imply the office, home or hotel lobbies. There is no restriction. It releases users from the binary option and introduces the hybrid model.”
Time-share for offices?
For those employers who wish to retain an office for a few days a week without the overhead of paying for space full-time or are stuck in long-term leases, a new ‘time-share for offices’ platform has launched. As a self-proclaimed ‘lockdown startup’ Space 3:2 enables two companies to occupy the same space on different days of the week.
Alternatively, entrepreneurs are finding ways to re-introduce an office at a smaller scale with a rota for who comes in and when.
Jeffrey Koffman, CEO of Trint the automated transcription service said “remote works, but a lot of the team don’t love it. They miss the opportunity to collaborate and they miss the really strong, positive sense of community and culture we have built. We now have an 18-person office with 14 desks. With 63 people in London, we have divided the company into cohorts. The idea is that each team can come in a day or two a week to plan, collaborate and help new starters integrate. The office is costing us 1/7 of what we had budgeted for an 80-100 person at this time.”
Do we risk a class divide with working from home?
Research from YouGov suggests that “many more middle class workers are able to work from home than working class workers,” with “around a quarter of British workers unable to work from home at all.”
Whilst this is predominantly likely to be a result of the type of jobs being undertaken there is also a question as to whether the home environment and set up will be conducive for all (given space, connectivity, equipment and potential distractions.)
To address this in part employers such as Google are offering $1000 work from home allowances to employees to help improve their home working set up.
If more businesses choose to adopt a remote first approach, there remains the question as to whether we risk a class divide in terms of accessibility as a result.
What about employee well-being and mental health?
As more businesses embrace remote work there will be an increased need for focus on employee wellbeing and mental health. In Buffer’s State of Remote Work report, 20% cited loneliness as the biggest struggle for remote employees.
According to a recent study from PwC, this is a top priority for business leaders to address, especially in the UK. Research from 3,500 CEOs showed that UK CEOs were “significantly more focused on their employees’ mental wellbeing than their global counterparts, with 90% providing wellbeing support and initiatives, compared with 61% of CEOs globally.”
It’s abundantly clear that working from home is here to stay and reverting to the former status quo of five days in the office is a thing of the past. As a result, employers will need to navigate the new norm, balancing the needs and expectations of their workforce, whilst embracing new routines and work practices. Businesses are collectively working out a modus operandi for a flexible world of work and with it entrepreneurs continue to do what they do best – innovating to forge the new world of work.
In future articles, we will explore how aspects such as Employee Engagement, Talent Acquisition and Development have changed post pandemic and shine a spotlight on entrepreneurs who have innovated their way through the crisis. Stay tuned for updates and send any ideas via twitter to @rajdey or email@example.com