The global pandemic has reset almost all of our social norms. With the workplace still in varying degrees of opening up, we find ourselves in a position of not only readjusting, but also realizing something new about the future of work environments. Conversations around what work-life will look like post-COVID are increasingly focused on the social toll of work itself.
We often don’t think of the office as a social space; the office is where people go to do a job, with socializing reserved for the weekend. Interestingly the CV-19 restrictions resulted in discussions centered on feelings of isolation alongside reports of enhanced well-being amongst typically well-adjusted individuals. While some people struggled with the loss of the office routine, others flourished in a new-found freedom to work more productively. A hybrid is on the horizon, and is likely here to stay.
Bye-bye to your 4 walled-office
According to data from the US Census Bureau, 4.7 million people in the US worked from home at the start of 2020. As low as that number seems, it’s even more incredible to consider how slow the growth rate for remote working was prior to the pandemic. 3.9 million people worked from home in 2015, meaning that figure only rose by 800 thousand people over five years.
While we don’t know what this figure will look like in the coming years, there are some helpful predictions that can help us gauge the trends that will shape it. It’s estimated that 70% of the workforce will work remotely for at least five days per month by 2025. That statistic runs contrary to the expectation many business owners have about what a new normal will look like.
After all, people spent 2020 optimizing their remote working situations. To see how well this has worked out, you only have to compare the efficiency of video conferences now to what they were at the beginning of 2020.
People have adjusted. More importantly, people have found the benefits of remote working to be more fulfilling than office environments. Even in the best-case scenarios, where people work fulfilling jobs and earn a salary that they’re happy with, it’s hard to overlook the attraction of remote working.
This isn’t just because working from home is an all-around better solution for some (it absolutely is), but because it offers different advantages.
The perks of remote work
People inevitably obtained a level of freedom with their time that a traditional office job doesn’t allow for. This isn’t just about productive hours or people “slacking off.” Multiple studies have found that remote working aids productivity for many people.
Being in an office has certain challenges. Some people have to commute to work, which can take anywhere between 30 minutes to two hours going both ways in a day. Since office hours are set, that means sacrificing time in the mornings and evenings. That’s not productive time, either; it’s time spent in transit.
When working from home, that time isn’t converted into work time, but it still has a positive effect. Workers have more time in the mornings for personal tasks, better sleep, proper breakfasts, and all the other small tasks that help us acclimatize to the day’s start. The evening becomes a time for recreation. For those who need more time off in the middle of the day, working in the evening offers a flexible solution.
Designing a life around work
The keyword here is "flexibility". The truth about work is that you don’t get the best results through iron-hard strictness or a complete lack of organization. Those are both extremes that either end in burnout or a lack of worker support. There is a balance, not between strict and lax or even structured and loose, but between micromanagement and self-organizing.
This is one of HeroX CEO's - Kal H. Sahota - main points when she talks about how HeroX does not have a formal office. Instead, HeroX is more "results-orientated" and cares more about outcomes one produces rather than policing whether you have spent 8 hours online.
When workers have a support system in place, they’re better able to do their jobs without compromising their well-being. The thing about support, though, is that it will be different according to each individual’s needs.
That’s where the flexibility of remote working comes in. It creates more space for support, whether that’s more personal time, working in a comfortable and accessible environment, or a digital office (especially for those who find in-person interactions taxing).
This trend towards remote working also opens up job opportunities for skilled individuals who otherwise can’t work in an office. The reality is that a new normal doesn’t mean turning the clock back to 2019. It means looking at 2022 and beyond and asking the all-important question: how can we do better?