Work environments were already evolving to some extent before the pandemic, with select companies having demonstrated some openness to making work environments more flexible. Signs of these changes included making offices leisure-focused by adding relaxation and socialising areas, games, snacks, and drinks and allowing employees to wear informal clothing.
These practices confirmed that concepts such as asynchronous work, flexible hours and casual clothing, among others, are not, as had previously been believed, offensive in any way and do not compromise productivity.
As the COVID-19 pandemic struck, however, this process was accelerated, forcing all work environments to adapt to the new challenges faced. The new need for social distancing shone a light on our homes as a possible workplace, granting us additional comfort without impairing our work. What started as a necessity ended up having several advantages, such as the time and money saved from not having to commute and the reduced risk of traffic accidents and the like.
Several studies have been carried out during this first year of the pandemic, making it possible to identify which of these changes have evolved into widespread trends.
Most workers prefer working from home. Research by Robert Half shows that 49% of respondents saw an improvement in their work-life balance thanks to less time spent commuting.
According to a study carried out by Owl Labs, although they are aware that they work more, 71% of remote workers say they are happy in their jobs, compared to 50% of on-site workers.
But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. The Robert Half survey also points out that 1 in 5 remote workers sees their biggest challenge as the distractions brought about by sharing the same space as family members. Naturally, when it comes to working from home during the pandemic, other concerns include loneliness, healthy eating, physical exercise, etc.
Businesses seem to be taking a similar stance to employees on these matters. According to statements André Miceli, coordinator of the MBA in Marketing at Fundação Getulio Vargas, made to Exame magazine, the expectation is that we’ll see a 30% growth in remote working after the pandemic.
Faced with such a wide range of new circumstances, it makes it easy to see how a new, hybrid working model could very easily come about once the pandemic is over. In other words, we may well be faced with a model in which companies provide more shared spaces, such as rooms and auditoriums for follow-up meetings or synchronous collective working (a co-creation and design thinking section, for example), whilst also maintaining individual and asynchronous remote work, whether from home or from “cyber cafes”.
For now, let’s all keep doing our bit to get this pandemic under control by getting vaccinated. Then we’ll be ready to take advantage of the positive changes this period has brought.