Let’s start with a disclaimer: some of our jobs will be completely unaffected post-pandemic. Even during it, essential workers are having to make daily commutes to ensure countries and economies can remain running as best as possible. That will only continue once the crisis is over and there will be professions that will still require people to head into the office.
This piece instead refers to those who have been fortunate enough to keep their jobs but have had to resort to turning their home into an office, away from the office. There has often been a stigma around people working from home. Do bosses think their staff are just going to become lazy and slack off when not under the watchful eye of managers? Probably. Do people who work from home feel like they can relax a bit more? Most definitely.
But all things considered, the global pandemic has had an unprecedented effect on the workplace, and getting things back to how they once were won’t be an easy task. Despite government payouts, some companies will have lost shed loads of cash during the lockdown, so may not have the finances to re-open their offices, or to re-hire furloughed workers.
The pandemic has also given rise to technology products such as Zoom, which has allowed workers to continue having meetings with their staff and clients. The infrastructure to move from the office to the home is most certainly there.
So will it, therefore, be possible for more people to be able to work at home after the pandemic has lifted, whether it be out of necessity or luxury? We spoke to Joe Ryan, a partner at Australian consultancy 4Twenty, to get his professional opinion as to how the workplace could change post-COVID.
Joe starts by telling us, “I think there’s definitely going to be a shift to people working from home.”
However, he admits it’s most likely the technology industry (it’s the industry he works in so it’s where his experience lies) that will see the biggest change, or at least, is the one that can afford to make the changes, “The mentality within the tech industry is a lot different from your traditional industries such as banking. The virtual mentality of the workers and the owners is you can work from home and you can be flexible, we want to be seen as offering a healthy work-life balance.”
After all, if parents had the option of spending a bit more time at home with their children and not have to pay for carers, they’re going to take it.
Joe continues, “But in banking, it’s very traditional. Bankers have to work in the city, they have to be in the city for meetings and networking, and they have to turn up to work in a suit, it’s just how it is. There are probably segregated offices, there’s no real comradery, no hot-desking or any kind of agile working space.”
As for how Joe expects to see the workplace change post-COVID, he adds “I do think people will have to shift to a work from home model to some extent, and those traditionalists will have had their eyes opened to a different way of working.”
“I do think the working at home environment will become more popular and the stigma around it will die off.”
As for whether more of us can work from home once the pandemic fully subsides remains to be seen. There will certainly be the argument from employees that they’re capable of doing it. It will be down to managers and owners to decide if they’re happy for the team to be split up. And to trust they won’t jump on the Xbox for several hours during the workday.