Is COVID-19 going to change the way we work forever? It’s hard to believe how different life in the UK was only three months ago. With the spread of COVID-19 came the restrictions on our lives that we have all become used to, but which previously would have barley been imaginable.
As restrictions begin to ease across Europe, we’re beginning to imagine a time when things will be back to how they used to be, although that maybe many months away. Even when we can start to put COVID-19 behind us, could the impact on businesses be about to spur some of the biggest changes we have ever seen to the way some of us work.
Although there are certainly many industries that are unable to work remotely, swathes of the working population are no longer taking the long commute to the office every day, and are instead finding a quiet (or not so quiet) corner of their home to work from.
Rather than taking months or years to adopt new technologies and new ways of working, this happened in a just a few days as teams had to communicate and collaborate in different ways.
Even with the enforced lockdown and these massive changes coming in over such a short period of time, businesses are seeing minimal reduction in productivity. In fact, many are starting to see productivity rising as they learn how to work and manage teams in this new world.
Large enterprises such as Google, Twitter and BT are saying they are going to give many staff the option of whether they ever come back to work in the office.
I have had multiple conversations over the last month with large and small businesses that are questioning whether they should downsize their office or get rid of it completely. With most businesses already very cost conscious, their greatest expense after staff is their office space; perhaps not for much longer.
Technology was already beginning to enable businesses to be more flexible in how they work. Most of our customers at First Solution were able to switch to remote working quickly, as they already made use of cloud technologies and hosted telephony.
Those that are already starting to use these technologies will continue to build on them to ensure teams can work and communicate effectively and securely. Businesses that were not so far along the path and have struggled to adapt will want to be prepared for any similar disruption in the future. There will also be the considerable incentives of reducing the costs associated with office space.
It is also a time where the benefits of an improved work/life balance, avoiding a long commute and reducing a person’s carbon footprint are increasingly important factors when choosing a job for many people.
The technology is readily available, and the right technology partner could help a business transform in a matter of weeks.
Will offices disappear completely? I don’t think so. For many people, the workplace is an important part of their social lives and currently, technology can’t quite replace the experience of being face to face with people. What we may see is the office no longer being the destination to come and sit in front of a computer, but perhaps a space more focused on teams coming together for collaborative working or an experience centre for customers to visit.
I can certainly see a reduction in travelling across the country or globally for meetings with colleagues, customers or partners as people get used to doing business over technology platforms such as Microsoft Teams. Again, technology can not replace the experience of meeting people face to face but perhaps, these face to face meetings can be saved for the more enjoyable parts of doing business such as a visit to the local pub to enjoy a pint together with memories of COVID-19 behind us.