Has the pandemic disrupted our working life?

After 18 months of remote work and restrictions affecting everything and everyone, we reflect on the aspects of our working life that might have been changed for good.

The concept “remote work”, which we have all become so familiar with, is not new – the demand for flexibility in where and how people work has been building for decades. Before the crisis, surveys showed that 80% of employees wanted to work remotely at least some of the time. Over a third would take a pay cut in exchange for the option.

 

 

During the pandemic, we all got a taste of what life could be like with a more flexible job that includes days working remotely – and it seems safe to say that the pandemic has accelerated a trend, which much likely would have peeked way later than it will now. According to McKinsey’s report “The future of work after COVID-19” from February 2021, remote work and the use of virtual meetings are likely to increase – although not as intensely as during the pandemic as many people are forced to go back to the office.

“At OMNIA, we have a fully remote workforce – which we have had since we started in 2009. For us it was business as usual when the lockdowns hit. It just made everything easier for us, when everyone else were doing the same – virtual meetings became the norm. It was like an epiphany for people in 2020!”

Daniel Hansen, OMNIA Global Founder & CEO

Global Workplace Analytics (GWA) supports McKinsey’s report saying that those who were working remotely before the pandemic will increase their frequency when they are allowed to return to the office. For those who were new to working remotely when the pandemic hit, there will be a significant upswing in their adoption. GWA’s best estimate is that we will see 25-30% of the workforce working remote on a multiple-days-a-week basis by the end of 2021.

“The pandemic has shown that working remote is possible. We were forced to learn it and many people really liked it. For some, the way they work is now more important than who they work for. This is new!”

Daniel Hansen, OMNIA Global Founder & CEO

So, what could the future of work look like?

There’s no doubt that lockdowns have opened our eyes to how our working lives can be post-pandemic – particularly knowing that post-pandemic, our children will be in day care, kindergarten and school giving us much better working conditions than during lockdowns, where working remotely mainly was a stress test. Time said it bluntly “The pandemic revealed how much we hate our jobs. Now we have a chance to reinvent work.”

With people considering moving due to the ability of working remotely, it could prompt a large change in the geography of work, as individuals and companies shift out of large cities into suburbs and small cities. However, this subject is highly debatable as some argue that the big cities always will attract talent with their energy and amenities.

We will most likely see smaller workspaces as companies shift to flexible workspaces with employees coming to the office 2-3 times a week meaning fewer desks are needed. A survey of 278 executives by McKinsey in August 2020 found that on average, they planned to reduce office space by 30%. Although there are disadvantages of remote working and having virtual meetings rather than meetings face-to-face, the office savings may outweigh the costs from the disadvantages.

Finally, we will most likely experience a decline in business travel, now that we have all become familiar with the extensive use of videoconferencing and virtual meetings making jumping on a plane less necessary. McKinsey estimates that an approximate 20% of business travel will not return.

“What I have missed the most during the pandemic has been the creative part of my job: Travelling and meeting new people and through that getting new ideas. It has been a more effective year because I have had more time to do all the paperwork, but definitely also a more boring year. It’s the journey that should be fun, and honestly, the journey is a bit boring at the moment!”

Daniel Hansen, OMNIA Global Founder & CEO

Then, what about the downsides of remote work?

So, while many of us see the advantages of this transformation, we have to be aware of the disadvantages. According to McKinsey, there is some work that is best done in person – although it is possible to do it virtually. Negotiations, critical business decisions, brainstorming sessions, providing sensitive feedback and onboarding new employees are examples of activities that may lose some effectiveness when done remotely.

If a company chooses to offer their employees to work remotely, while still having people coming to the office every day, there is also a risk of creating a divide between these two groups of employees. Will it be the employees at the office who are more likely to receive promotions? And what about the company culture and social interactions?

“When you run a company with a remote workforce it requires that we meet occasionally to create and maintain a team spirit. There is only so much you can do on Zoom! Because of the pandemic, we have employees who have never met each other. And we have missed celebrating all the good things happening together. We definitely need to give it some extra on the other side”.

Daniel Hansen, OMNIA Global Founder & CEO

Will we seize the moment?

The pandemic has forced us to ask ourselves if our working lives still make sense to us on the other side of the pandemic. How many hours do I want to spend in a giant office from 9-5 – and how many hours do I want to be away from my children? Do I want to live somewhere else if working remotely is an option? And even – do I want to change career? According to Time: “(…) people are not just abandoning jobs but switching professions. This is a radical re-assessment of our careers, a great reset in how we think about work.”

This is an opportunity to bring some more balance into our lives with more flexible jobs whether that is through moving to the countryside to work fully remote or through commuting to the office two days a week.

This moment in time seems like a very good opportunity to re-evaluate how we spend our time and live our lives.

“Our society has gotten a wild and necessary wake-up call. We have realised that we do not have to sit at the same desk every single day. Knowledge-based and creative jobs can be performed anywhere! I really hope for more flexibility – whatever works for the employee should also work for the company. If you do your job well, it should be up to each individual how and where you do it.”

Daniel Hansen, OMNIA Global Founder & CEO

 

13.7.2021