The predictions of post-COVID future paint all sorts of wild images, from empty and sterile offices to work-from-home utopias. Without any in-depth analysis, it’s clear none of those extremes will come true. However, what’s also clear is that there will be an impact. In fact, some changes are already in motion, so a good way to be prepared for them is to recognize the ones that matter.
Offices Aren’t Going Anywhere
With such a massive shift towards remote work, it is easy to envision a future where office spaces are a thing of the past. As means of communication get more advanced and the work-from-home concept gains traction among employers, we might feel like office spaces will just fade into obscurity. Instead of worrying about the daily commute, our future selves will probably ponder on which 4G LTE USB modem to choose to get to work.
Of course, such a radical shift is nowhere near in vicinity, if feasible at all. While there will be a considerable shift towards remote employment, offices will still play a major role in shaping company identity and culture, not to mention social interactions. Having said that, office spaces will undergo changes to become safer; still, expecting them to vanish completely is a bit too much.
Attitudes Will Catch Up With Reality
For many employees, showing up at work by plugging in a 4G USB modem instead of spending a good hour in traffic jams is a dream come true. However, employers view it in a different light. There are many known disadvantages of managing a remote workforce:
- Poor communication
- Lack of team-building opportunities
- Challenging hiring process
- Diluted corporate culture
- Lack of control
- Decreased productivity
Perhaps because of these considerations, major companies have been reluctant to adopt the work-from-home approach even for tasks that could be handled remotely. Available data suggests that up to a third of employees that were laid off during the lockdown could work remotely. Post-COVID, however, these attitudes are bound to change as we get more accustomed to the idea and invent new ways to maintain a productive and fulfilling experience.
Shaking Hands Through Portable Modem?
With office spaces undergoing an overhaul in design on a physical plane, subtle social changes are bound to follow. The most glaring one is handshake: the part of human interaction that is so familiar and ubiquitous that we hardly notice it. Of course, there’s a good reason it’s hardwired so deeply. In a workplace setting, this simple form of human contact is central to establishing connection, conveying trust, and showing respect between employees, customers, and business partners.
Of course, nothing of this matters as long as the safety and well-being of people around you is at stake. So, whether we like it or not, we’ll probably see changes in workplace etiquette and social conventions. One of the things social isolation has taught us so far is that we don’t need to be in one room to show respect and trust.
Risk Mitigation and Decision-making
One effect of the COVID-19 outbreak that everyone agrees upon is how humbling it is for humanity. Despite all risk mitigation strategies, there hardly is an organization that was fully prepared for such an event. Even nect WORLD’s crowdfunding campaign stumbled when conferences were canceled due to the pandemic.
Now that these shortcomings are apparent, we’ll probably see more consistency in measures for overcoming similar disasters. These measures will probably include:
- Recognizing and eliminating risks of exposure
- Planning on how to cope with high absence rates
- Preparing remote employee management strategies
- Drafting backup plans on entering and exiting the crisis
- Wide adoption of advanced cybersecurity strategies to protect corporate data now accessed from personal devices and a variety of locations
In hindsight, all of these look like logical steps every company with long-term plans should have taken, which they probably will from now on.
COVID-19 has already had a tremendous impact on people’s lives. And, while some of its effects are temporary, others will change the way we live, work, and communicate. And some of these changes can already be seen, both in risk management and decision-making and in the way we greet each other. So, instead of lamenting the inevitable, we will be better off recognizing what’s to come and making sure it doesn’t catch us unprepared the next time.
All illustrations are created by Lucy Ivanova, a Chief Creative Officer at nect.