Will Working From Home Be the New Normal?
Written by: Stephanie Bariatti, SMB Media Marketing Consultant
As many regions start to lift restrictions in an attempt to return to some kind of normalcy, it still seems that the workplace will never be the same.
For many of us in the marketing/advertising industries, “the office” has always been a location outside of our homes. But the reality is we may never find ourselves sitting in a dreary cubicle again. Some are claiming that the office, as we once knew it, is dead. And to be honest, I think that’s a totally plausible statement to make.
Companies are already fully embracing the idea of remote working. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey recently announced that employees will have the option to work remotely “forever,” and Facebook recently adopted a similar policy. Many other large corporations are following suit by offering permanent WFH or some kind of hybrid plan. And the majority of the American workforce is behind this idea: 55 percent of workers believe their industries can flourish under a primarily working-from-home environment, according to the latest Linkedin Workforce Confidence Index. Furthermore, 57% of respondents who are new to working from home due to the coronavirus said they would prefer to keep doing so in the future, and 48% said they feel more productive in the work-from-home environment, according to a Metova survey conducted in April.
Let’s face it. The technology to work from home has been available for some time. And in recent years, many employers have willingly granted their employees the flexibility to work remotely, either partially or full-time. Pre-pandemic, lots of people, especially working parents, sought this option as a way to best maintain a healthy work/home balance. However, many employers strongly resisted, even banning remote work completely.
The notion of keeping all employees in the office full-time has historically been viewed as more beneficial by some bosses. Many argue that having the whole company together under one roof fosters greater teamwork, camaraderie and brainstorming, ultimately leading to more productivity. Great strides have even been made to open up the workplace, breaking down walls and having teams sit closely in common spaces, believing this would promote even more success.
It all makes sense on paper, but there has always been a discussion as to whether this actually works in practice. And now, we need to think about all this through the lens of the COVID-impacted world. The logistics just may not be feasible for some companies. The whole office would need to be completely re-structured to follow social distancing measures.
Companies who have the luxury of sprawling office space may be able to sufficiently space out individual workspaces and enact whatever guidelines are issued. But that is just not a reality for many companies, especially in densely populated cities. Think about a high-rise in New York City, for example. Even in a best-case scenario where you can walk to work and avoid a packed commuter train or bus (which is not the case for most people), what happens when you get to your building and everyone is trying to squeeze into small elevators to get to their offices on the upper floors? That office on the 50th floor with the killer views might just be a liability now.
What we could see is a mass exodus of businesses from the big cities. Exorbitant rents eat up a huge portion of companies’ budgets. Not to mention all the money that may be spent on swanky décor, high-quality furniture and office amenities, like fancy coffee bars. Granted, a company may need to invest more in their technology, but going completely virtual could be a good thing for its bottom line. And while we're on the subject of technology, this could be a boon for tech companies helping to outfit businesses with all their new needs.
Many individuals may also flee the crowded cities if they have the ability to work remotely and not physically be in close proximity to their jobs. And it will potentially widen the talent pool for employers, since they will be able to hire people from any location. However, the idea of permanent work from home might be hard for some to get on board with. Some people really enjoy working in a traditional office and some people do feel that they are, in fact, more productive outside of their home. Some companies may opt to keep some sort of smaller office space for those who wish to work at the physical location and also for the purposes of necessary face-to-face meetings. So that 50th floor stunner may move down to an easy to walk up location. Alternatively, we may simply see more co-working spaces, like WeWork, start to take hold.
There is still so much unknown about how the world will emerge from this pandemic and what the lasting effects will be. And there are a myriad of ways in which companies will allow their employees to work. But the “great work from home experiment,” as some have referred to it, has proven to be successful. Yes, it will present its own challenges. Some problems I foresee are extended work hours, Zoom fatigue and lack of motivation. But in this new world, remote work is here to stay.
Stephanie Bariatti works as a Consultant and Project Manager for SMB Media Consulting. She has had extensive experience with many facets of advertising and media, having worked for and with creative agencies, production companies and research departments. She lives in New York with her wonderful husband, three lovable little boys and a snuggly Golden Retriever.
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