As a return to the office starts to come into view for some, it might be a good time to speculate what the future of work will look like.
Having now lived through full remote working for over 4 months the most pertinent question might be what do you want your future work environment to look like?
On the flip side, as an employer what changes in work practices can you see the upside to and what level of remote work would you be willing to accept?
No matter which side you sit on this, one thing is clear by now – the answer will be different for everyone.
- Full-time in the office
While plenty of people are longing for a presence back in the office a return to the status quo of how we’ve always worked seems unlikely for most office situations. With all sorts of existing Covid complications remaining from childcare to commuting via public transport it seems unlikely that uninterrupted office attendance for all will return for the moment or if ever.
Furthermore, if the work from home concept has been proved successfully during this period conversations around remote working practices will be unavoidable.
- WFH some of the week
This is perhaps the most likely option depending on your role. With many Irish banks/financial service firms having already transitioned towards this model in the last couple of years the expectation and likelihood would now be for this to become quite a normalised option for most office staff.
It is probable that the current standard of at least 1 day a week remote will move more towards an average of 2-3 days per week.
- Some remote but not in your home
This one falls under the category of completely reinventing our work-lives and how our cities operate. An example of the future vision on this is what’s been termed the ‘15-minute City’. This is where employees would remain in the city or country of their employer but would for the most part work from some form of co-working space not more than a 15-minute walk or cycle from their home residence.
It’s fair to say the current situation has made it clear that whatever the future of remote work the forced mix of work and home life is not sustainable in the long-run for most people – psychologically, a separation is needed.
This option would entail working in a ‘community’ office space for most of the week or month. This would negate the need for commuting while also potentially transforming house price affordability. It would also see a paradigm shift in how commercial office space works.
- Extended periods away from the office
For some, the great silver lining of this crisis was the fact that it gave the opportunity to return to their family home and spend an extended period with family while still working their ‘city’ job. For others (rightly or wrongly) it was a chance to get away to a holiday home where for a month or two they could enjoy evening and weekends there when their day job was done.
It will be interesting to see if this can become an annual occurrence where having more time to spend with your parents (or your holiday home!) down the country will be the type of flexibility employees will want extended as a normal occurrence.
- Fully Remote
Going the Full Monty! With some of the tech giants here already committing to fully remote for the rest of the year and well into 2021 there could well be a move towards this for a sizeable chunk of the workforce in certain jobs. Shopify being the shining light example of a company already operating this way and successfully so by the looks of it.
There are of course plenty of drawbacks to this that will have been brought to light by lockdown. On the other hand, if a job can be done effectively under this model the case will have been well and truly proved by now.
So, where does that leave us? As some of us now start returning to work this a good time to think about what as an employee is your optimal flexible work situation. Your employer may not be able to fully facilitate this but if you have a clear vision of what you want and why – a constructive conversation can take place on what is achievable.
For employers, a similar thought process is needed in mapping out where the boundaries will be on flexible work going forward. It’s a good time to honestly reflect on how this large-scale remote work experiment has impacted how the work is done. What has worked and what hasn’t?
In approaching this issue with employees, a mindset of trust is key – and in truth, the whole thing won’t work without that approach.
With remote/flexible work practices now set to become the top retention issue for every organisation the conversation is inevitable – but with open minds and pragmatism on both sides a better working future for all is within our grasp!
Senior Recruitment Consultant