2020 has been called “The Great Reset.” How can we expect a time of so much disruption to affect our jobs and lives going forward?
COVID-19 vaccinations are officially being administered, which means the end of the pandemic is closer than it has been. This is incredibly hopeful news, but that doesn’t come without a new wave of uncertainty.
Will remote work be the norm? Will corporations attempt to sell their city center offices? And is anyone else worried about how socially awkward they will be after months of quarantining?
As we continue to adapt to all that’s been thrown our way over the past 12 months, you can’t help but wonder what 2021 and beyond have to offer us.
If you’re curious, keep reading to hear our predictions for the post-pandemic workplace.
Prediction 1: Office maintenance budgets will rise for good
How many times a day do you notice the fire sprinklers in your residence? Do you think about the carbon monoxide alarm other than when it’s beeping for you to change the battery? Odds are your answer is no to both. And yet, almost every building has multiple safeguards to protect you in the case of a fire or carbon monoxide leak.
We predict that outbreak protections will be as commonplace in offices as fire, flood, and carbon monoxide safeguards. We prepare for the 100-year flood, so why not do the same for the 100-year pandemic — or even more realistically, next flu season? There’s a need for office design that prioritizes human health beyond the immediate threat of COVID-19.
Experts agree: Immunologist and researcher of indoor environmental health, Dr. Claudia Miller, says that the goal of architecture should be to put doctors like her out of business.
That doesn’t mean that your coworkers will need to wear face masks daily — just that we can expect better ventilation, hand sanitizer stations, and voice-activated or touchless technology in the offices of the future.
Prediction 2: Businesses will repurpose their real estate in creative ways
There’s a very good chance you’re reading this from the comfort of your own home. Over 12 months into the pandemic, approximately 58% of employees are working remotely at least some of the time.
In a Capterra survey conducted last August, 46% of respondents say they plan to allow employees to work remotely more frequently after the pandemic is over. That means the need for office space will effectively be cut in half. (To learn more about our survey methodology, click here.)
While some businesses will sell their real estate and opt for a fully digital workspace, we predict that many will find ways to repurpose their underused office space.
How empty office space will be transformed depends on a variety of factors such as the location, size, and floorplan of the workspace, as well as what use case would provide the most value to the business. For example, some organizations may repurpose their extra space into storage or on-site childcare for employees, while others may want to open their space up for public use by transforming office buildings into educational facilities or coworking spaces.
Prediction 3: Large corporations will sell their city center headquarters and create new neighborhood hubs
As mentioned above, more corporations are embracing a remote workforce, which has caused the need for city center office buildings to decline. Even corporations that choose to return to the office are going to face a transition period that includes a combination of remote and in-person work, and many will find that it still makes sense to keep some employees at home.
Both of these strategies will drive business leaders to rethink their offices: how much space is necessary, how it will be used to foster productivity and collaboration, and even where it’s best located.
While some corporations may choose to stay in big cities in order to attract young talent, we predict that many others will choose to decentralize and create neighborhood hubs instead.
By establishing smaller satellite offices in the suburbs, businesses will significantly decrease their real estate costs, which are often the second highest expense after compensation. These smaller hubs will also offer businesses the chance to be more inclusive by recruiting candidates who might not have been able to commute to a city center office.
Prediction 4: Employees will have more flexibility in where and when they work
Flexible work arrangements were on the rise even before the COVID-19 pandemic. There are several reasons for this. First, the widespread prevalence of smartphones and fast, reliable internet makes it easier than ever for employees to connect and collaborate from anywhere. On top of that, the preferences of Millennials and Gen Z-ers have led to changes in workplace culture: According to Gartner, 68% of Zoomers want to work remotely at least some of the time (full source available to clients).
Lastly, worker productivity seems to be mostly independent from a specific time and location. This is an especially important factor when it comes to embracing work fluidity.
We predict that “work fluidity” will become the norm for many corporate workforces. Work fluidity is the idea that a worker can be productive from anywhere, at any time. Remote work has allowed the lines between life and work to blur, and it will only become more commonplace for employees to work whenever and wherever they want—whether it’s from home, a coworking space, or even a neighborhood office hub.
There are huge advantages to work fluidity for employees, especially those with caretaker responsibilities. Without the constraints of a set schedule or physical location to report to, employees are free to work when and where is most conducive to their unique needs.
What’s next? Prepare for the post-pandemic workplace
These predictions are just our ideas of what the post-pandemic workplace might have in store for us. Few could predict all the ups and downs that 2020 held, pandemic and otherwise.
Preparing for an unclear future is a tough job, but here are some steps you can take:
- Assess how you use your office space: It takes data to make informed decisions. Facility management software can help you by measuring your office space utilization and giving you suggestions on how to optimize the space.
- Ask for your employees’ input: Real estate may be an asset to your organization, but it’s not the most important one. Your employees are what, or rather, who make your business successful. Ask them what their optimal working environment looks like in a post-pandemic future. Survey software can help with this, and there are many free options listed in our software directory.
- Be ready to adapt: The one thing you can count on is that things will continue to change. Aim to be agile and adapt as challenges come your way. For a deeper explanation of the importance of agility, check out Gartner Keynote: The Future of Business Is Composable.
Capterra COVID-19 HR Impact Survey 2020 Methodology
The Capterra COVID-19 HR Impact Survey was conducted in August 2020. We surveyed 123 HR “leaders,” defined as CHROs, HR vice presidents, HR directors, HR managers, or any other role with HR leadership responsibilities at U.S.-based businesses. We worded the questions to ensure that each respondent fully understood the meaning and the topic at hand.