Teleworking: What are the consequences for future work patterns?

  • Teleworking: What are the consequences for future work patterns?

We are currently experiencing one of the most dramatic disruptions in the culture of work. Companies around the world have been forced to embrace mass distance work.

And with 2.6 billion people confined to their homes by order of their government, this could be seen as the great “home work test”, in which we will all discover whether employees and technology are up to the task.

One certainty that emerges from this great “test” is that there will be a noticeable change in the way we will work in the future, both in the way we will approach the working day as well as in the facilities we will use and need. We highlighted some of the benefits of the home as an office, but it also highlighted the need for a central workplace. What is certain is that attitudes towards these two aspects are likely to change, with employees working much more equally between the two.

Working at home: a spotlight on productivity and work-life balance

Once the world returns to “normal”, distance work will no longer be unusual and we will see a movement where flexibility is the norm. Employers who were skeptical were able to see that home work works and is effective, and some benefits were clearly highlighted. First of all, it allowed us to recover the time lost in long and boring journeys and to question the office’s constraining routines. According to the monthly barometer Acemo-Covid de la Dares, the French do 2 more hours of work compared to the hours worked at their place of work, and another Gartner survey found that 41% of employees are more likely to work remotely at least once we are back to normal.

Working permanently at home has also allowed employees to manage their time in the way that best suits them. According to a recent Yougov poll carried out across the Channel, only 6% of employees work traditional hours from 9am to 5pm, and only 14% would opt for these hours if they were given the opportunity. This allows employees to work smarter and be much more productive, and to stop the scourge of “presenteeism”. It also allows employees to better balance their work and private lives and better manage their responsibilities at home, such as child care, which could have a significant impact on gender equality in the workplace.

All these elements will in turn mean that the home will become a more important place of work, with at least two days a week spent at home. As such, it will change the way we think about the home office, and the expectations about how employees are equipped. Allowing employees to simply have an office laptop that they take home will not be enough, especially in terms of health, safety, and productivity.Employees will be expected to have the appropriate peripherals to perform their work to the best of their ability.

Business premises, what can we expect?

The big test does not sign the death sentence of the professional premises. On the contrary, it has proven that employees always want the opportunity to meet, at least from time to time.

Many organizations found during confinement that it was sometimes difficult to collaborate and share ideas.Indeed, it is crucial to be able to exchange, create, and collaborate in person to innovate and, if teleconferencing is useful from this point of view, communication by email, phone or screen is unable to transcribe all the nuances of a face-to-face conversation.Teleworking is an activity that can also be quite solitary, so it is likely that employees will want to continue to be able to meet their office colleagues.

However, the new paradigm of teleworking will surely lead companies to re-evaluate how they occupy workspaces. According to Gartner, 74% of Cfos are preparing to transfer a number of previously onsite employees to permanent telework positions once things get back to normal, which will allow them to reduce the costs associated with commercial space. This change has the potential to change the perception of the workspace: it would no longer be a permanent workstation during office hours, but a fluid meeting space where employees would only go when they need to interact directly.

After confinement, one thing will certainly change: the attitude towards close contact with other people over extended periods of time. We will have to learn to live with social distancing and there is a good chance that hygiene will become a much more important concern than before. For example, we may see more contactless sensors in office spaces, including switches and door handles. Antimicrobial materials will likely become the norm, as will air filtration systems, which are more frequent and of better quality.

There is also a good chance that the gap between jobs will widen. In recent years, the area allocated to each employee has been reduced from 19.6 m2 in 2009 to 18 m2 in 2017, according to Cushman & Wakefield. With awareness of social distancing, this tendency to bring more people together in a smaller space will reverse. The workstations will have to be nearly 2 metres apart and this new way of occupying the space will be possible thanks to employees practising telework. The question of sharing workstations will also arise and the shared keyboards and mice will probably disappear in favor of the use of personal devices brought by each employee concerned.

We can also predict that, in many cases, the office space will be reorganized with more specialized areas meeting the needs of staff more equitably shared between the offices and the home. For example, we will likely see more small teleconferencing rooms to facilitate exchanges between smaller teams shared between offices and their homes.

The new normal

Face au télétravail imposé, les entreprises ont été forcées d’innover, ce qui a à son tour stimulé l’investissement et le progrès. Des modes de travail qui étaient réclamés depuis des années ont dû être mis en place du jour au lendemain. Les équipes ont été forcées de mieux comprendre comment travailler à distance et de tenter de réaliser des choses qu’elles pensaient jusqu’alors impossibles. Une des conséquences positives de la situation est qu’elle a permis aux entreprises de développer une relation plus saine avec le travail flexible et toutes les technologies qui le rendent possible, et cela pourra seulement avoir un impact positif sur les pratiques de travail au quotidien et rendre les emplois de bureau plus inclusifs.

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