Life after Covid-19: How the workplace will change
By Ben Williams, Director of Advocacy at eyeo (makers of Adblock Plus)
This week, the UK Government is expected to deliver its exit plan from lockdown. Much speculation has been played out in the press and across social media on what this might look like. Businesses have been leveraging this information to make their own return to work plans. While tactics will vary business to business, one thing we can expect to remain is remote working.
Post lockdown, the idea of commuting into busy hubs such as London will be incredibly daunting. Organisations will need to be sensitive to “Coronaphobia” with staff unwilling to commute on public transport. Additionally, the financial implications of the crisis are undeniable, and we believe many organisations will need to deploy cost-cutting measures. Physical office space will be one area under consideration, with many potentially downsizing or looking for flexible office space rather than long-term leases. These points reinforce why remote working will remain integral to the next phase of this crisis. In light of this we have outlined the tactics and considerations organisations need to take on board when deploying remote working on a long-term basis.
Open-space concepts: The future of digital workplaces?
Prior to the pandemic, one thing we have been experimenting with at eyeo is the open-space concept called Remote Open Space. This year, the company came together to collaborate and brainstorm ideas looking at, well, anything anyone suggested. Every one of our employees had the opportunity to book a virtual “room,” and give a session on anything they wanted, work-related or not. Sessions ranged from how to deliver negative feedback, what we mean when we say “strategy”, gardening tips, to a deep dive into eyeo company culture. Historically, this is conducted in a physical space but this time we came together digitally with over 200 employees from all over the world contributing. Although many organisations have traditionally embraced the open-space concept, we now know that large meetings and conferences can take place remotely and holding these events regularly over video call is a great way to ensure companies can still come together no matter where everyone is located. For this concept, we used tools like Google Suite and BlueJeans for video calls. Here is a full guide of how we organised it.
Encourage employees to follow a routine that works for them
While in lockdown we have become accustomed to following our own routineand it’s important to continue following this routine once lockdown is over. Taking regular breaks from the screen to avoid eye strain and having a defined lunch time can help recharge the batteries. It is also important to go out for a walk at least once a day or undertake some form of exercise whether it be running or cycling – this goes for those working from home and those working in an office. There are plenty of great workout apps and tutorials on channels such as YouTube employees can take up. For the more spiritually minded person, meditation (apps like Headspace can be really helpful) or indoor yoga (YouTube videos can come to the rescue) act as a great form of escape. It’s important organisations create this space in the office, so those who found the right routine at home can continue following it once they return back to the office. These activities can help offer a different perspective and undo any mental blocks that one may be struggling with.
Group interactions can keep the spirits up
Just because some people within an organisation will choose to work from home and others will prefer to work in the office doesn’t mean businesses have to miss out on group interactions. Business leaders could adopt virtual coffee dates or happy hours with colleagues over video chat to keep spirits up. There are some digital tools available that can help company interactions in a fun and friendly manner.
More focus needs to be put on employee wellness
The boundaries between work and free time tend to blur while remote working, which can have a negative impact on employee wellbeing. It is critical employees maintain a balance even while working remotely and if possible, set personal boundaries and be strict about the working hours.
Collaborative workspace apps have been a great way for employees to share information on topics such as health and meditation and also mental health hotlines. Taking care of your mental health while working from home by taking a few minutes during the work day to go on these apps is a great coping mechanism that should also be encouraged when we go back to the office. Employers need to encourage employees to share information on a range of topics such as mindfulness. One way this can be done is by offering meditation sessions and yoga sessions in the office or remotely to employees to ensure mental health is balanced with physical health.
Once this difficult period passes and normality returns, we will likely see a major shift in attitudes toward workplace culture. For the long-term success of remote working, instilling routine and structure is key. Companies learning how to work remotely will have undoubtedly learned valuable lessons through trial and error. Those organisations more experienced will have honed their practices.
Collectively, more organisations will begin to adopt a remote working system, that will see a huge shift in the office environment. Once lockdown is over and social distancing measures ease, we can finally put to bed the antiquated notion that people must be at the same physical place to work together effectively.