Never before has there been a period of such fundamental changes in work environments. Overnight millions of organizations globally transitioned their employees from working in an office environment to working remotely. Organizations that would never have previously considered allowing their employees to work from home on a permanent basis (potentially because of secrecy concerns, or from an inability to monitor productivity), were forced to make fundamental changes in their working arrangements. With the end to the pandemic starting to appear insight, organizations are having to grapple with a new working environment – to what extent to transition remote employees back to an office environment. This article explores possible post-covid working environments, and important considerations between the arrangements.
Possible office setups
Entirely work from home
One possible working environment post-Covid is to formalize the work from home practices that many organizations have implemented due to Covid – to transition employees that have been working from home to permanent remote workers.
Entirely return to the office
The other extreme is to return remote employees back to the office environment (i.e., when vaccines have been widely received and government advice is that non-essential workers can return to the office).
A hybrid combining work from home and office work
Between two extremes of entirely working from home, or entirely returning to the office, is the hybrid model. This approach allows some greater flexibility for home working, while also ensuring that members of the team do periodically meet to discuss matters in person.
Offer employees choice on their working environment
Another take on the hybrid model is to offer employees substantial choices regarding their future working environment. While work-from-home schemes have existed for decades, they have largely been targeted at working parents who have needed to balance working with also child care arrangements. A possible post-covid arrangement is to dramatically expand the scope of such schemes to accommodate the preferences of a much larger proportion of workers who have got used to, and prefer the arrangments of working from home.
Key factors that may influence your post-covid office setup
When determining the arrangements that make sense for your company in a post-Covid world, it is important to consider the below factors:
One key factor that you need to bear in mind when determining your working environment is employee desired. Ultimately your company is underpinned by the staff that you employ, and they will likely have their expectations of the office environment. Many will have got used to working from home, and not want to lose this perk that they have enjoyed. Some may even consider changing employers to maintain this environment, and even for those that do remain, pulling employees back to work reluctantly may not be good for morale.
Of course hover, employee sentiment is unlikely to be uniform – there are certainly some employees that prefer the office environment. Everyone’s living situations are different, and potentially not ideal for working from home. Some people miss interacting with their colleagues, and living from home can without direct interactions with others can have negative psychological consequences.
Impact on your efficiencies on operations
Another key consideration that will impact whether it makes sense to return to an in-person environment is the impact that remote work has on productivity within your organization. For work that requires significant in-person discussions, there may have been substantial reductions in productivity or quality associated with working from home. Or for work that is hard to monitor, working from home may have been associated with reductions in productivity. Having all employees working from home due to Covid can be viewed as a trial of the work from home arrangements – you will likely have developed an understanding of the areas of your business that are just as effective when conducted remotely, and those areas where there have been performance issues.
It may also be easier to justify bringing back employees when there is a clear rationale for why the work ideally needs doing in person – if employees share the benefit that their work is better suited to an office environment, they may have less resistance to being brought back to the office.
Cost of office space
The office space associated with in-person work is not cheap – there are significant on-costs associated with rent, office equipment, maintenance of the office environment. Having your team work entirely or partially from home can reduce or eliminate this cost. Indeed, the cost-saving from reducing your office requirements may partly or entirely offset any productivity declines that you may have experienced from having employees work from home.
Culture, learning, and career progression
A final consideration to bear in mind when determining the long-term setup of the firm is the impact long-term report work may have on the organizational culture, individual learning, and career progression. These are justifications that have existed for decades on the negative side effects of long-term remote work. Whie
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