There Is No Going Back to Normal: How Jobs & the Workplace Will Be Affected Permanently

There have been many articles published about how to prepare to return to work, but how will jobs and the workplace culture be when you return? Will everything go back to how it was or will it be different? In the past few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted companies and the way they operate. New policies and procedures and alternate ways to communicate were required by workplaces in order to quickly adapt to operating in a very different environment. As cases begin to decline, companies are preparing to go back to work and are hoping things will eventually get back to normal. The truth is that there is likely no chance of going back to normal. Even once a vaccine is found, the pandemic will leave an everlasting mark on jobs and the ways companies operate.

While no one can predict the future, here are some of the ways the workplace is expected to change and how your company can begin to prepare for what may become the new norm.

More Work at Home Opportunities Will be Expected

Not all managers and company owners are a fan of working at home. In fact, 76% of HR Leaders reported to Gartner that the top employee complaint during COVID-19 has been “concerns from managers about the productivity or engagement of their teams when remote.” When employees are working at home, it’s harder remote career opportunities to track what they are working on and confirm they are not only being productive, but also putting in the same amount of effort as when they are in the office. Studies have found; however, people tend to be more productive when given the freedom of working from anywhere as opposed to needing to be in an office environment. A 2019 survey by gig work platform Airtasker found that remote employees work 1.4 more days each month. It was also found that remote workers took more breaks, but this boosted their productivity.

Before the outbreak, 69% of organizations already offered a remote work option on an ad hoc basis to some employees, while 42% offered it part time, and 27% offered it full time, according to SHRM’s 2019 Employee Benefits Survey. Now that more people have had the opportunity to work at home and have proven productivity, it will be hard to take away this “perk” from employees. Many have been able to adapt to working at home and now would prefer it. They have experienced the luxury of waking up and being only feet away from their office. A Gallup survey even revealed that 54% of U.S. workers would leave their current job for one that allowed them to work remotely. Studies as these and employees having had the firsthand experience of working at home, will leave workplaces very little choice, but to offer some work at home options in order to retain top talent.

Most likely companies won’t have to go fully remote, but flexibility will be the new mantra. It’s true, not everyone works at home well and not everyone prefers it so having the option to go into an office environment will be a big perk for some. Whether companies let employees choose if they want to come in or implement a staggered schedule, where smaller groups of employees will still be expected to come in on certain days, it will need to be decided what is best for the company. What is certain, is that working at home has proven to be profitable for companies. You will just need to decide what work at home policies will work best for your company.

What Will Come of the Office Environment?

With more employees working at home in the future, what will come of the office? Companies may only land up having regional hubs or co-work environments, where people can come in and choose where they want to sit versus having an assigned desk. Offices will be seen more as intricate conference room centers with fewer walled offices and more areas to hold meetings. Office spaces may even grow to become “Status Symbols”. If your company has an office, you must be doing well to afford it. Just the opposite of what is trending now may become true, while many people see it as a perk to work at home, job seekers may find it a draw to work at your company if you have an office space.

In terms of the physical office space, you can expect to see shared spaces have more touchless fixtures. Sinks, soap dispensers, light switches, and doors may all become automatic. While many office spaces already have this in place, it will become more standard. Some even expect voice activated elevators to avoid touching buttons!

It is also anticipated that even the design of the office space will become more similar to how hospitals are designed. The way furniture and flooring are made will change to be more durable to withstand the chemicals in cleaning products. There may even be more talk about air filtration that uses ultra violet light for cleaning when everyone goes home at the end of the day. Office spaces will most likely have more sinks throughout for washing hands. Hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes being placed throughout the office will also be the new norm.

How Will Jobs Change?

The Effect on Working at Home

With more people working at home, it will cause greater global competition. If you can work from anywhere, more people internationally may be applying for that job you want. On the upside though, this will also allow for more opportunities. You may be able to work for an international company without having to leave the U.S. What causes blurred lines though is how salaries will be determined based on cost of living. Will someone’s salary be considered based on where they reside or will the salary be determined by the region in which the office is in?

There are also various perks that companies offer now for employees, such as snacks in the kitchen, company lunches, birthday cakes to celebrate birthdays, and more. How will these benefits be translated if employees are at home? Companies will need to think of new ways to provide benefits to replace these. Perhaps you can still hold a large corporate meeting once a year, where breakfast/lunch/dinner are all paid for and gifts are handed out. Some companies who are already working at home, such as Shopify and Twitter, offer “Home Office Space Stipends” to order office supplies and home office furniture. This could be a new benefit offered to employees as well.

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