With Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, saying that the UK is in “half-time in extra time” when it comes to tackling the Covid-19 pandemic, the light at the end of the tunnel is getting closer. We can cautiously say that things for the new year are starting to look a little less gloomy.
What does this mean for the world of work? Will we all be heading back to the office five days a week? Will it all go back to the way it was before? Or has the remote working boom taken hold?
Current trends are showing that the impact of the last few years are likely to be more long term. With many businesses seeing the benefits of remote work and many workers adapting well to this way of operating, don’t expect everyone to be sprinting back to the office in the new year. However, don’t expect everyone to be staying at home either.
In this article, we’ll be looking at how remote working trends are likely to evolve in the next year and what businesses are doing to prepare.
Remote work was already on the rise before 2020 with many businesses starting to adopt more flexible working policies that help their workers maintain a healthy work-life balance. More workers had started looking for remote or flexible working benefits in order to better organise their busy modern lives. Covid-19 has undoubtedly given this trend a boost.
The pandemic has taught us a lot about the world of work and forced us to re-examine the way we work. Businesses were forced to adapt quickly and many that had never considered remote work before had to adopt this way of working in order to survive. As the crisis stretched on and on, some temporary changes became permanent and the many benefits of remote work started to emerge.
This was true for both employers and employees and for many, the idea of going back to the way it was before feels very much like a step backwards. Instead, it is much more likely that businesses and their employees will learn from the lessons of the last few years and adapt the way they operate. Many of these changes were already on the way but the pandemic has accelerated the process.
That’s not to say that remote work is right for everyone. There are many jobs where working remotely isn’t a possibility to start with. Some people work better in an office environment. Some people find the office environment distracting. Some people are more productive when they mix up their working environments.
The pandemic has forced workers to create their own working environments and this means that they’ve had to stop and think about what works for them. This has proved a golden opportunity for some to create a remote working routine that improves their productivity and work-life balance.
Others will have found that they miss office life and will be impatient to get back to work surrounded by colleagues, finding it more difficult to collaborate working remotely and missing the social element.
The last few years have really highlighted how different personalities work better in different environments. It’s certainly not a ‘one size fits all’ situation and employers are starting to become more sympathetic to this. Expect more flexibility and personalised schedules as we move into the new year.
The traditional office model has been around for a long time now. A nine-to-five working day, five days a week in an office building which looks very similar to other office buildings. Cubicles or open plan work spaces for the more junior staff who move into their own private office as they progress, with the most senior workers occupying the biggest offices on the top floors of the building. For a lot of organisations, this no longer makes as much sense as it used to and the pandemic has made this more obvious than ever.
While it certainly isn’t time to say goodbye to the office completely, many businesses are looking to make big changes in the way their offices operate. For example, the use of hot desking is on the rise which makes a lot of sense in situations where employees are only coming into the office a few days a week. This means that someone else can use the space on days they are working remotely and reduces the amount of overall office space required.
This is only the start in the evolution of the office and over the next few years, more organisations are expected to move further away from the traditional structure with remote working central to this.
Many businesses started taking on employees during the pandemic with the understanding that they were remote-first workers and that this would be permanent without the expectation that they would need to come into the office once restrictions were lifted.
For those who can take on permanent remote workers, there are plenty of benefits. For a start, businesses are no longer restricted by geography and can make hires irrespective of where the worker is located. If they’re advertising the role nationwide, or even worldwide, this drastically increases the candidate pool from which they can select their next employee.
There’s also money to be saved when hiring remote workers as you don’t need to provide office space for them. This means that you can expand your workforce without expanding your office space and all of the costs that come along with this.
Businesses that have started hiring remotely are likely to continue doing so in the next year and more are likely to pick up this practice, especially in the light of the current talent shortage in some industries.
Life for remote workers is only set to get easier as more facilities are made available to them and technology improves.
Working remotely doesn’t necessarily mean working from home. You have the opportunity to find the working environment that works best for you. Recognising this, new enterprises have sprung up over the last year or so offering facilities for remote workers. Whether these are open plan spaces, perfect for collaboration or quiet spaces for you to enjoy some peace and quiet without the distractions of the office.
The technology required for efficient remote work is also improving and we’ve all become more literate in things like video conferencing software over the last few years. All of this makes the prospect of working remotely more attractive to employees.
Rather than going back to the way things were before or continuing with the ways we’ve worked throughout the pandemic, 2022 is set to be different again. There is likely to be more flexibility built into the way organisations operate, recognising that this can have a significant positive impact on the work-life balance of their employees. This move towards flexible working will mean that remote work will continue to be widespread as we move into the next year. There will be a lot more personal choice involved with some able to choose to work remotely permanently, while others will prefer to stick to the office. Many, however, will adopt a more hybrid way of working, splitting their hours between the office and remote work to find a balance that works for them. Overall, employers seem happy to facilitate this as happy employees means greater levels of productivity.