For many employees, remote work would be the new norm as an increasing number of major employers and CEOs like Modelez, Nationwide, and Barclays speak about a permanent shift to a work from home setting and reduced office space, stated Adedayo Akala of CNBC, a business and finance news website. Companies have been forced to let their workers work from home as stay-at-home orders were implemented for non-essential positions and businesses.
During this time, companies are starting to see that productivity is not impaired when working from home, and employees may not need to return to their offices to stay productive and complete their tasks. Remote work may also be part of required cost-cutting measures for corporations to prepare themselves for a prolonged economic crisis on top of the pandemic.
CFOs Plan to Shift Some of Their Workforce to Remote Work Permanently
According to a survey by Gartner, a research and advisory company, 74% of CFOs said they expect to move previously on-site employees to remote after the COVID-19 pandemic, cited Larry Dignan of ZDNet, a technology news website. Regarding the question “What percentage of your workforce will remain permanently remote post-COVID who were not remote before COVID,” 26% said that none of their workforce would remain remote, 27% said 5% would remain remote, and 25% said 10% would remain remote.
Moreover, 17% said 20% of their workforce would remain remote, 4% stated that 50% would remain remote, and only 2% said that over 50% would shift to remote work. Regarding the key shifts from CFOs and enterprises managing cash via COVID-19 shutdowns, 81% of CFOs planned to exceed their contractual obligations to hourly workers, offering remote work to provide flexible schedules and maintain operations. 90% of CFOs said their accounting close operations would be able to run effectively without disruptions off-site.
20% stated that they were cutting their on-premise technology spending, with 12% planning the same move. 13% of CFOs said they slashed real estate expenses, with 9% planning cutting these costs in the coming months. Further, executives were pursuing multiple action plans to avoid layoffs and some of these included canceling all leadership events and offsites (60%) and canceling conference spending (15%), with 51% saying they have frozen travel and expenses.
58% also said they have frozen hiring, 49% have delayed capital expenditures, and 32% have delayed or frozen present new hiring offers. On the other hand, only 8% of sales leaders said they are considering shifting traditional outside and field sales to virtual positions permanently. In another survey by Gartner, 71% of CXOs said business continuity and productivity were the biggest risks from COVID-19 along with employee health and safety (69%), financial risk (45%), information security risk (40%), fraud risk (27%), and IT risk (27%), mentioned Dignan.
Remote Work Is the New Norm
The necessity of remote work prompted many employers and employees to spend more money on new technology such as video conferencing subscriptions and new equipment, noted Rani Molla of Vox Recode, a news website that uncovers and explains how our digital world is changing as well as how it changes people. For companies, reducing their rent obligations by offering their employees to work remotely is an easier and less painful solution than layoffs. Kate Lister, president of consulting firm Global Workplace Analytics, said, “Companies where the technology and culture were aligned with working from home were more successful in working from home than others.”
Changing How Office Spaces Look
Working from home all the time does not work for every employee. In fact, many of them will want to go back to their offices. However, office spaces will need to undergo some major spaces to prioritize the safety of workers—which could entail a u-turn from the open office trend. This could mean more private spaces or personal offices for employees and more distance between desks.
Rather than having desks face each other or be beside each other, employees might be positioned to their co-worker’s backs with more space between their other colleagues. Kate North, vice president of workplace strategy at Colliers International real estate company, explained, “Every configuration of every floor plan should be assessed to look at distancing and safety.”
We might expect the reintroduction of different types of barriers between desks such as cubicles to curb the spread of germs. However, these might be harder to reintroduce considering the ubiquity of standing desks.
Property managers and designers are foreseeing a change in how office spaces will be designed. Other than building a layout that stops the spread of germs, new technology could give workers access to conference rooms and elevators without touching doorknobs or press buttons.
There will also be actions that will facilitate managers to divert congestion points and clean offices, albeit less visibly. Don Gilpin, president and chief operating officer at IFMA, said, “There’s going to be a special effort to consider and think about every possible place within the built environment that a human being has touched and the possibility of that being a source of contamination.”
This could include higher-quality air filtration systems and more-powerful cleaners. Moreover, the shift to a cleaner office also includes copper fixtures, fabric that retains fewer germs and can be easily cleaned, more spaces in kitchens and bathrooms, and increased attention to how fair liquids can splash.
Some conglomerates could also resort to using UV lighting to disinfect offices at night or meeting rooms after each use. This practice is increasingly common in hospitals. Additionally, offices might limit the number of employees inside at once. Rather than having every employee from nine to five, offices might consider having certain teams be present at certain times to reduce congestion.
Coworking Will Change
Coworking spaces are known for shared amenities and communal areas where everyone can use them. Keeping coworking spaces safe would cause more companies to erect dividers and construct private offices. That might lead to fewer chance encounters between employees from different teams and companies.
Apparently, these interactions differentiate coworking companies from regular office real estate companies. “What will be most in demand will be spaces that offer a measure of control and privacy during the recovery, when there’s still uncertainty financially and from a health and safety perspective,” concluded Mark Gilbreath, CEO and founder of LiquidSpace.
The aftermath of the pandemic will usher a new norm of working. Co-working spaces will not be doomed, but it will be changed to cater to proper social distancing measures. We might expect more companies to offer work from home options and construct dividers between desks for safety.