Lockdowns around the world have forced people to work from home, which has accelerated the adoption of virtual meetings and remote working at an unprecedented scale. Early indications show that on the whole, this global homeworking experiment has been successful and that it is very likely to change the attitudes of employers, with regards to how they manage staff, recruit and most importantly for this article, use office space.
Employees splitting their work weeks between the office and home will become much more common in the 2020s than it was in the 2010s. Business travel could also be impacted now that workers have been forced to hold meetings through videoconferencing and have since overcome all of the teething problems. Companies will be looking to lower costs and reduce their carbon footprint, and with several airlines either going bankrupt or drastically scaling back the number of routes they offer, it is also likely that international travel will be more costly for the next few years and possibly more time consuming also.
This long-term shift in how we work and travel will require significant investment in telecoms and broadband infrastructure. In the UK, for example, internet service providers have seen double-digit increases in traffic during the lockdown and suburban areas will need to catch up with the city centres to cope with demand.
A ‘Working from home’ study, conducted in June by employee event planner Wildgoose, asked employees from 133 companies throughout the UK how their working day differs at home compared to in the office and whether they wanted to continue working from home after lockdown has finished.
Aside from the surprise finding that most employees working at home say that they take significantly less micro-breaks than they do when working at the office, 74% of those asked also said that they would be happy to continue working from home after the lockdown has finished. The study also found that small businesses face greater pressure going forward to allow employees to continue working from home, with 89% of workers in SMEs wanting to continue at home, compared to only 69% of those working at companies that have over 1,000 employees, which is likely a reflection of the better office facilities and social interactions that a large company can offer its employees.
Work at home “forever”
Twitter’s announcement in May that its workforce (more than 4,000 employees globally) will be allowed to work from home “forever” prompted a nervous response from some commercial property landlords. The social media giant said its work-from-home measures during the lockdown had been a success but it also said it would allow workers to return to the office if they choose to, as and when those offices reopen. Earlier in May, both Google and Facebook said that their staff can work from home until the end of the year.