The Future of Office Work: Is it finished?

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In a year marked by a global pandemic, social distancing became a rapid and familiar rule employed in most offices and industries worldwide. With so many people and enterprises protecting their workforce, the notion of putting dozens of people in an office once again is a long thought for the up and coming times. So, what will the role of the office be?

The office, or workspace, plays a vital role for employees as it provides a physical space where people come together to actively coordinate, maintain performance and increase creativity.  Moreover, it displays the company’s brand and culture, playing a crucial part in recruiting and maintaining talent. As in most businesses, the role of the office will continue to change while still focusing on its most important objective: to provide collaboration and productivity. 

Of course, demand for office space is directly tied to the economy. As most companies move into a cash preservation mode, the demand goes down and for some companies who already own office space, remote work has become a reality that some already were familiarized with. However, although a great deal of workers in the IT industry are now performing remotely, this does not mean less demands for the office and the benefits that come with it. 

Indisputably, the office as we know it cannot substitute behaviors that technology can’t replicate, such as face-to-face interactions and mentoring, among others. There’s no denying the success that remote work has delivered, as well as its advantages. Yet, employees still prefer to work in the office part of the week. You would be mistaken to think that the office as we know is no more. 

Currently, the modern office can only exist with safety and hygiene measures. Knowing this, Nearshore Portugal is committed to a safe environment where each employee can choose to work remotely from home or to work at the office with all hygienic and safety measures in place. 

Nevertheless, knowing that his is not enough, our eyes as set on the times ahead and what new and better stances can we adopt.

The future 

We’ve undergone an unprecedented global experiment where people have relocated from the office to home and shown they can be just as efficient. Yet, it’s been harder to draw a line between work and private time. Adding to this is the lack of social interaction that only a collaborative workspace can deliver as the reduced presence in an office over a long period of time can reduce productivity. The future is now tied with flexibility, a key aspect for employee satisfaction between onsite and remote work. 

Redifining the workspace

With so many changes in such a short period of time, it’s clear that the Covid-19 pandemic will boost changes in office design. In a more immediate transformation is the occupational density. For safety reasons, most companies have seen their onsite workforce cut to max 20% occupancy. A trend that can be reversed once a vaccine or other means of effective treatment is available. Another approach may focus on building an outdoor space for employees such as a terrace or simply renting current spaces with these perks to avoid any sense related to confinement. 

Even so, there’s no denying the residual effect on daily work life. For that reason, many companies are centered on providing an office with fewer seats but more desk space, putting the employees comfort and security at ease, as well as only a half-day occupancy.

Location

When it comes to working remotely, the absence of commuting in the biggest advantage, while at the same time, becoming the biggest concern for employers. In cities which dependent heavily on public transportation, re-entry to the office is something to take seriously due to the chances of exposure. To fight this, some cities and companies are pushing for benefits related to cycling and walking. A measure that can make a significant long term difference.

Should we continue to work from home?

This is the million-dollar question. More workers are setting up their own offices at home and organizations are considering if returning to the office is the right choice for their employees’ health.

Yet, returning to the office is a complex question that runs deep. For some, going to the office is as much of a health necessity as it is form some staying home. What must exist is a balance between employer flexibility and transparency while ensuring proper hand-washing rules, social distancing, breathing etiquette, mask usage and surface-disinfecting routines, all mandatory. Ultimately, returning to the office must be an open choice considering each cities health authorities recommendations and commands. 

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