The Return to Work After COVID 19 – What is This Going to Look Like?

Return to Work after Pandemic

The Return to Work After COVID 19 – What is This Going to Look Like?

Whilst we wait with bated breath for guidelines and the end of formal restrictions on movement and work, we are starting to see our neighbours in other countries starting to lift restrictions. We don’t yet know the extent of these and how successful they may be.

We do know that social distancing will be in place for some time yet, it is also likely that those considered high risk, will need to stay locked down a good while longer.

But what will a return to work look like? And fundamentally, what have we seen change over the last couple of months?

To understand how the workplace may change, we need to understand the way work is undertaken has shifted over the last couple of months. Our customers fell into two camps, those with Office 365 and those without. To be fair, for some businesses the ability to work remotely was not an option being for example being a non-essential retailer, doesn’t lend itself to remote working. For others being able to seamless switch from the office to home worked very well.

The Right Tools Facilitate the Right Working

For those customers with office 365, the true value of the investment and challenges around migration to the “Cloud” finally paid off!

For these customers, the switch to remote working was seamless and painless. Calls, emails and projects could be easily delivered, from the front room or bedroom. As long as there was an internet connection, connecting with colleagues was easy, as was file sharing and tracking that tasks had been done. Employees at home could simply get up, have a coffee and benefit from the familiarity of accessing files and systems with ease, removing some of the psychological stresses of lockdown.

For those that did not, there have been difficulties. sorting servers, VPNs and access. Other challenges occurred like ensuring appropriate restrictions on sensitive data could be enforced, and that’s without the complications of multiple staff wanting to access and work on the same files. Work could still be done but was less efficient and created more stress at an already stressful time.

One thing that will come out of the crisis is a better understanding of how cloud solutions and the right tools, will empower a displaced and remote workforce. We are in no doubt that companies that worked with solutions like Office 365 will be more profitable.

The Physical Workplace

I believe we will see a shift in the traditional office. I think companies now see that employees and businesses, can work effectively in a remote way.

Some employees have tasted and will want to continue to work from home others won’t. This will present companies with a dilemma and if not handled delicately could result in a potential loss of talent to organisations that may offer differing working practices more aligned to these new desires. The office itself may undergo changes. The British Council for Offices recently released a thought leadership piece entitled “ Thoughts on Office Design and Operation After Covid-19”  which makes some interesting predictions for our future workspaces.

Some of the proposed ideas include:

  • Limits introduced on the number of people who can occupy a space or room.
  • Hotdesking will no longer be promoted.
  • The end of communal cutlery, pots and bottles.
  • The adoption of ventilation and humidification systems which create environments that make transmission tough for viruses.

Now, these are just a few musings, and there are also some ‘smart solutions’ being bandied about such as apps based on location to reminding employees to sanitise hands or other devices etc.  Aside from these, we will see social distancing in place for some time in the workplace and screens to protect employees may be required as well as other measures around distances of desks and seats.

It is no doubt that for the return to the office, some physical changes are likely to be apparent. Whether these will be in place for the long term is currently anyone’s guess.

Being Human 

We hear a lot about the economic and business implications of the COVID Pandemic but what about the human element when it comes to a return to work? Adam Grant, Professor of Management and Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School believes there will be some that suffer post-traumatic stress as a result of the crisis but suggests there may also be some post-traumatic growth, in which people realize their inner strength and a deeper sense of gratitude.

Being interviewed by the World Economic Forum’s World Versus Virus podcast.  Grant said, “This might mean redesigning jobs to make them more meaningful and motivating, trying to build cultures of creativity and generosity in teams, or even trying to make entire organisations more productive.”

Management teams will need to take time and let employees adapt to the workplace again, there will be shared grief and experiences that will impact employees and employers need to be mindful that staff may need greater support and meaning in their day to day roles.  

The Working Day 

We may well see a shift in how employees want to use the workplace, whilst some will need and want the structure and feel of the office, many will have become accustomed to the benefits of working from home and employers shouldn’t ignore this.

There will probably be a shift to hybrid working solutions, with employees having the ability to work from home for most of the week, and let us say attend the office once a week. Now employers have the evidence that work can be done effectively and efficiently from the home, saving on office space and other costs can be reduced making the business more profitable.

We may also see a shift in the fixed hour’s rotation and the demise of 9 to 5 as staff can utilise time differently to deliver what is needed. This has been under discussion for a long time with the new generations starting to mould the modern workplace.

In Summary

We know that at some point we will return to the workplace, and we can only speculate at how our staff will feel. We will need to take measures, both physically in the workplace to ensure security and also ensure we adopt the right approach to support and help our employees.

From conversations with our customers, we know that more staff will continue to work remotely in a hybrid solution, and we need to remember that for this to work successfully in the longer term we will need to ensure we have the following in place;

  • The right policies and processes
  • The right management and support for employees
  • The right tools to allow working, such as Office 365 and MS Teams
  • The right security measure to protect the organisation and employee

Finally, as the new ways of working become the normal ways of working, we will need the right attitude and patience to fine-tune and make things a success.

If you would like to find out how Office 365 can help your business be smarter and efficient call us on 014 361 0062