By Sharon Pegg, Director Northern Powerhouse Consulting

Looking to the Future: COVID-19 and New Ways of Working

COVID-19 has forced organisations across the globe to adopt new ways of working. From the introduction of remote working on a huge scale, to planning how to carry on operations in new and creative ways in the longer term, the pandemic is set to change the world of work as we know it.

Remote working and the move away from ‘office culture’

The growth of remote working has been predicted for many years, but the pandemic has made it a reality on a huge scale. Despite the initial anxieties and teething problems, many organisations (and employees!) have embraced remote working.
Businesses are finding they are able to reduce costs and be more agile, while employees on the whole have enjoyed a better work/life balance, free from soul-destroying commutes.

The offices of the future:

Post COVID-19 offices will definitely not be the same. Social distancing and one-way systems will be in place, as well as area restrictions and possibly mask wearing in some areas.
Maybe offices and workspaces will be adapted for things that can’t always be done from home like certain types of collaboration or meetings. Will hubs or networks of workspaces closer to where employees live replace the centralised office in the future? Only time will tell.

Will working relationships be more meaningful?

Because we’ve been away from the office and the interactions that happen naturally in the course of our working day, we’ve had to put in extra effort to stay connected.
Aside from the virtual team meetings and catch-ups about work, many people have taken part in more relaxed interactions like virtual pub quizzes, after work drinks, and coffee breaks.

Will this plus the fact that we’ve collectively been through a traumatic situation create closer and more meaningful bonds?

There’ll be more remote interactions with clients.

Due to the pandemic, there’ll be far less need (or desire) to travel up and down the country or across borders to see clients. COVID-19 has shown us how to embrace the digital tools that help us interact and collaborate with clients with ease.

Will employees finally have better work/life balance?

While it might feel like the rug has been pulled away from under some people, many have started to think differently about work. They don’t miss the gruelling commute and they’ve found that they’ve been able to use the time they’ve saved productively. Many organisations and their employees will question whether commuting to the office is necessary at all.

Businesses may have access to more talent.

If people don’t have to commute to the office, what’s stopping them from applying for their dream job with a great organisation, even if they aren’t geographically close to where the firm is based? For roles that don’t need to be done in person, this could be a reality, and it could mean that organisations have access to a much wider pool of talent.

Now is the time to think about what the future might look like for your organisation.

The impact of COVID-19 may mean that organisations have to let go of the old ways of working and embrace the new, whether that’s making remote working more of a permanent thing, reinventing processes and procedures, focusing on helping employees have a better work/life balance, and working with clients in novel and creative ways.

Change may have been forced on us, but change is not always something to be feared.