There is no doubt that COVID-19 will change the workplace forever. With new light being shed on public health concerns and extended adaption to remote work, companies around the world are revisiting the 'new normal'.
The pandemic has certainly sped up the development of remote systems and tools, with many corporate leaders leaning into the idea of remote teams. Twitter, Facebook, Square and Shopify, for example, have given their employees the option to work from home indefinitely - a concept that hardly existed five years ago.
On May 22nd, the Shopify CEO Tobias Lütke tweeted, "As of today, Shopify is a digital by default company. We will keep our offices closed until 2021 so that we can rework them for this new reality. And after that, most will permanently work remotely. Office centricity is over".
When Andrew Hunter of Adzuna was asked about remote work in a recent interview with Fortune, the co-founder replied, "the standard office-based job is increasingly a thing of the past."
We've been exploring some predicted impacts of COVID-19 on our workspaces, and here are just a few thoughts.
Did you know that during COVID-19, commute times in congested Sydney dropped by about a third? With many working from home, the roads emptied out. Unfortunately, this may be short-lived. As distancing conscious commuters need to go back to the office, they may opt to drive rather than risk public transport - especially with dropping fuel costs. A shift back to private car use may undo years of initiatives to promote public transport use and drive up commuter numbers on the roads to unsustainable levels.
However, commute times may come down in the long-run. As employers have moved to work from home during COVID-19 lockdowns, these may become more permanent shifts, a move that would take more cars off the road and result in fewer people on public transport commutes.
The pandemic helped many realize when a face-to-face meeting is required versus when it's acceptable to communicate digitally. Communication management tools such as unified communication systems, Slack, Microsoft Teams, Jira and Monday.com all provide synchronized, easy access to coworkers without the formality of an organized meeting time. Adopting digital communication platforms has improved real-time communication, shifting employees off phone calls and inefficient emails to real-time chat. That's a big win-win for workers.
Gone are the days of flying from Melbourne to Sydney for just one meeting. As most employees remains just as productive while working remotely, it'll be challenging for businesses to justify the expense. Especially when the use of video conferencing tools, such as Zoom, throughout lockdown periods, have proven video meetings can replace face-to-face meetings with minimal impact. Additionally, until there's a vaccine, many are fearful of flying and hotel stays.
Azurite Consulting recently conducted a survey which revealed 40% of those surveyed will not stay at a hotel until there is a vaccine, and 49% don't feel comfortable flying internationally until then also.
Given the dramatic shift in workplace behaviours, one byproduct of the pandemic will be a continuation of expedited technology development that supports remote work. Implementing efficient communication and data storage systems that can be accessed anywhere is more important to businesses than ever before and this has become increasingly obvious with each passing day since the outbreak began.
A significant increase in remote work will be an adjustment for many of us. So, it's important to have the right tools in place to optimise for success and productivity within you, your team and organization.
Learn how to manage time
It's easy to become glued to the computer while working from home. According to a recent survey by Airtasker, on average, remote employees worked 1.4 more days every month, which equates to 16.8 more days each year. It's not hard to see why. Home becomes the office and the office becomes home.
Set up your workspace
Getting caught up in being 'always on' because of a lack of separation between physical spaces is something all remote employees easily fall victim to. That is why time management and setting up a proper workspace is crucial. Psychologist Charlotte Armitage suggests that a proper workspace is fundamental to working from home success. "If you work in every room of your house, you will start to associate your home with work, making it very difficult to switch off from work and creating unhealthy imbalance in your work-life routine. Ideally, you need a space that is specifically for work that you can close the door on when you want to switch off.," she explains.
Reach out to teammates
Workplace by Facebook conducted a survey in 2018 which addressed the concerns of many remote employees by uncovering that 54% sometimes feel disconnected, underlining that it's common to feel alone or stuck when not physically surrounded by a team to collaborate with. It's important to understand those emotions when experiencing them and reach out to teammates to help you feel engaged and connected when feeling isolated. With endless digital communication platforms at our disposal, keeping in touch is easier than ever.
The effects of COVID-19 on the way we work will continue over the coming years. While the spike in telecommunication and remote activity will be an adjustment, adapting and embracing the change by putting proper tools in place will allow for a smooth transition.