Has The Work Environment Changed Post Covid?
The UK Government has indicated that the pandemics worst is behind us. However, anxieties remain over a COVID-compounded 2021/22 Flu season. But, with cases and hospitalisations currently dropping, the economy is seeking to recover from the challenges of the lockdowns. But what awaits for the new work environment, read more to find out...
Modes of working
PriceWaterhouseCoopers has identified keeping employees safe in the return to the physical workplace as an employer's paramount concern, whilst maintaining performance. Board-level and staff-side opinions are virtually unanimous in a favour of a hybrid working model working, securing the benefits of both office and home working.
The Independent quotes Elon Musk informing Tesla staff early in the Pandemic "[If] you feel uncomfortable coming back to work at this time, please do not feel obligated to do so." Allegations exist that this was not always practised, however, the biggest companies looked at the Pandemic in terms of working patterns.
Murat Soysal of Segmentify, an e-commerce personalisation platform with online retailer clients in 30+ countries, reports that they have adapted to remote working.
"Our teams get together in scheduled daily or weekly virtual meetings, and check-ins for continued communication so co-workers stay connected and engaged. We created online working groups, managing cross-team communication through online messaging systems.
We interact with our clients in different countries through online meetings, with participants coming from a variety of backgrounds and countries", Murat said.
Remote working has made recruiting the best candidate easier, as opposed to the best located individual. Charli Garner of Growbe, an out-sourced back-office function solution provider, stated:
"Although we have an office in London, the team we've built is distributed throughout the UK, and largely works from home. We've been able to hire talent that we wouldn't have had access to if we were restricted by location, and our extensive use of technology ensures we can offer flexible hours while keeping productivity and collaboration very high."
Whilst there has been an increasing interest in employee physical and mental health over the preceding years, COVID-19 has made it mainstream.
In addition to the risk of COVID-19 on individual staff, mental health is of critical importance in terms of hybrid working.
Mustansar Iqbal from Autocoincars, an online cryptocurrency-based car sales platform, identified the need to be flexible and understanding from the beginning of the Pandemic. Mustansar added,
"Our staff, in particular, their mental and physical wellbeing, have been of the utmost importance. We made big changes to our outlook on work/home life balance.
We agreed to return to the office when we all felt comfortable returning. We implemented several measures including social distancing of the desks and individual discretion on mask-wearing. We also bought a healthy supply of antibacterial wipes, hand gel and spray for staff use.
As a company, we ensure the office is cleaned more often and ensure staff clean their personal area frequently too, as well as regularly having air ventilators on to improve the air quality. One perk in particular that we implemented as of January this year was free COVID-19 testing for all our staff."
Jeff Bezos said of Amazon, during and after COVID-19 that it is "going to be Earth's best employer and Earth's safest place to work" and that it needed "a better vision for how we create value for employees - a vision for their success." A welcome prospect for many.
Office space demand
Savills reported that demand for office space in London dropped to 200,000 square feet during the Pandemic, compared to the pre-COVID-19 average of 900,000 square feet.
Jason Waterman from People Club, specialists in scaling start-up businesses, reports a slightly different experience.
"Our business actually started in the first UK lockdown, so we were remote completely until June of this year. We've since taken some office space in London, which we are using 2-3 days per week."
Whilst historically office space would accommodate entire workforces, a new way of using space has emerged. Jason continued:
"The office is set up as a collaborative space, with TVs, whiteboards, sofas and some desk space. The team uses tools to plan when we're in the office, and we're often in the office from around 10 am onwards. We find missing the commute to and from work means we achieve a lot more when we are together."
Jeff Bezos is reported to have said "Frugality drives innovation, just like other constraints do. One of the only ways to get out of a tight box is to invent your way out."
Faced with increased financial pressure, as well as public health concerns, many businesses are seeing the benefit of reducing office space on their bottom line.