What Role will the Office Play in the Future?

April 16, 2021

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During the pandemic, we got used to the ‘new normal’ but many of us will now be wondering what comes next. It’s safe to say that some aspects of the way we both live and work have changed permanently, and big question marks have been placed over former staples of our lives.

 

During the pandemic, we got used to the ‘new normal’ but many of us will now be wondering what comes next.
 

 

One of those things, is the humble office.

Love it or hate it, for many of us, going to the office is a large part of our working lives. At least it was. That was in a world where the phrase ‘social distancing’ did not yet exist, and masks were reserved for Halloween or skiing.

With the advent of COVID-19, however, offices closed their doors virtually overnight and home working became a normal part of our day-to-day lives. Whilst remote working and platforms like Microsoft 365 have been used for a long time in the business world, COVID-19 has really shown employers the value of home working, so much so, the place of the office is now being called into question.

While the office was once previously essential for access to resources, equipment and knowledge, advances in technology now means that having a physical hub for employees is no longer strictly necessary to run a successful business. So, what does that mean for the future of the office?

While we don’t have a crystal ball at Elite Group IOM, here are our predictions about working life after COVID-19.

 

Hybrid Working Is On the Horizon

Across numerous studies into remote working and employee satisfaction, one thing has become crystal clear; a lot of employees have embraced remote working and are reluctant to go back to how things were. For many office employees, working from home has come with a number of benefits. Whether that’s saving money on commuting, having more free time or simply less stress to deal with day-to-day, many office employees would be more than happy to continue working remotely. Employers will also be happy to hear that many workers also feel like they’re more productive at home, with many companies also recognising productivity increases amongst their remote work force.

Here at Elite Group IOM, we predict that businesses will adapt to a ‘hybrid’ model of working, meaning some days in the office and some days at home. In this sense, hybrid working offers the best of both worlds, allowing employees to enjoy the benefits of working from home, whilst also still having access to an office for in-person meetings and a collaborative workspace.

 

More Flexibility for Employees

With the hybrid model comes an inherent flexibility for employees. Before the pandemic, remote working was a rarity in the business world, especially on a small island like the Isle of Man. For most employees, flexible working was something that had to be negotiated with their company on an individual basis. In this brave new world, we predict that flexible working options will become the norm across office-based businesses, with the opportunity for flexible hours or home working offered to all employees as standard.

Remote working could also impact employee recruitment, offering businesses a wider range of candidates to choose from. For businesses looking to maintain remote working practices, that pool of candidates could span across the whole of the UK. If you no longer have to go to a physical office every day, you no longer have to live within commuting distance of your company’s office. While this cultural shift is perhaps not as applicable on our fair isle, employees could benefit from working in remote positions, taking advantage of employee opportunities without having to pay higher housing costs to live in cities like London.

 

Technology Will Lead the Way

 Throughout the pandemic, technology has been at the forefront of home working from day one. Thanks to the likes of cloud computing, video calling, and collaboration software, employees and businesses were able to continue operating from home offices and kitchen tables across the island, with impressive success, might we add.

For businesses looking to continue remote or hybrid working in a post-COVID world, keeping up with the latest technology is essential for remaining competitive with your office-based counterparts. Communication and collaboration can sometimes suffer when working from home. Equipping your employees with the right technology can alleviate this disadvantage and promote a positive collaborative environment across your business. Software like Microsoft Teams can provide a virtual hub for your remote working/hybrid employees, offering video calling, chat functions, and calendar integrations for better collaboration and communication.

 

The Office Still Has a Role to Play

For those of you that enjoy office life, fear not. Whilst remote working is no doubt here to stay, we think there will still be a place for the office in a post-coronavirus world. Although employees generally enjoy a more relaxed pace of life working from home, many are missing the social interaction and the community that working in an office environment can often provide. There’s also the underlying issue of exhaustion and burnout to consider, where gains made on productivity have come at the expense of employee health and wellbeing.

A study carried out by Microsoft was particularly eye opening to the pitfalls of full-time remote working. 67% of respondents said they were ‘craving’ more in-person time with their team, whilst 39% of those asked are feeling exhausted after a year of non-stop working from home. This, combined with the desire for greater flexibility, suggests that the physical office isn’t done with us just yet. It will simply evolve with the times to meet the demands of employees and business owners, becoming a space where employees actively choose to work.

 

Generational Differences Stand Out

Whilst generational conflicts are often overstated, studies suggest that home working is affecting each generation differently and will likely determine future attitudes towards the office/home debate. It’s therefore worth considering in the discussion.

Research carried out by Egress found that the younger generations are struggling more with remote working than their older counterparts. Indeed, the study shows that 66% of millennial and gen Z workers feel more tired, stressed or under pressure due to remote working, verses only 34% of baby boomer and generation X respondents. But before we start throwing the term ‘snowflake’ around, it’s worth noting that almost half of millennials and gen Z are working in a shared space verses only a third of baby boomer and generation X participants. An interesting point to consider; home working is a lot less enjoyable when you’re sharing a kitchen table with 3 other housemates.

 

A Conclusion

At the end of the day, COVID-19 will no doubt represent a seismic shift in our attitudes towards the office. Positive or negative, hybrid working is perhaps the best outcome for all, and will likely be embraced by office-based businesses of all shapes and sizes going forward. Business owners and managers will ultimately see the value that both components can bring to their business; it’s unlikely that one will be completely abandoned for the other once the world re-opens from this COVID-nightmare.  The office, as in previous decades, will continue to be a stalwart of the business world. It will simply have to adapt to the changing times to stay relevant.

 

Is Your Business Ready For Its Hybrid Future?

If your business is looking to futureproof its operations, get in touch with Elite Group IOM. With our range of cloud and voice solutions, we have everything your business needs to get ready for hybrid working.

 

Elite Group IOM is one of the island’s leading IT and unified communication providers, supplying reliable and professional IT and telecoms services to organisations seeking Connectivity, UC & Voice, Cloud Service, IT Software and Security solutions.

For more information on how Elite Group IOM can help your business flourish through technology, contact us today.