If there was anything for businesses to learn in the past year, it had to be the importance of operational flexibility—after all, a raging pandemic tends to keep people out of the office. Now, with multiple vaccines in production, it seems apparent that these restrictions will soon be eased… but will any of the changes in business operations remain, even after they are necessary?
Presumably, the answer to this is yes. Let’s examine a few ways that the past year will likely have an impact on how businesses look at their technology and productivity solutions moving forward.
While Health and Safety Will Be Emphasized, In-Office Work Won’t Go Away
Obviously, given the huge toll that the pandemic has taken, any office that reopens its doors to its employees and clientele once again will need to ensure these people are physically and psychologically safe. Forrester Research discovered that two-thirds of American workers want this, despite the promising progress on COVID vaccines.
It must also be said that many are concerned about how remote work has impacted the way existing office infrastructures are (or more accurately, aren’t) being used. Consider the business districts in larger cities, and what they would look like with their massive office buildings effectively abandoned.
Fortunately, projections have indicated that this is an unlikely outcome. While not all employees will want to run back to the office, about half plan to do so to some extent. This offers businesses the opportunity to potentially downsize their active workspace and distance their in-house employees more from each other. Crunching the numbers, this suggests that one in five workers will ultimately transition to permanent remote operations.
As a result, many businesses will have the opportunity to size down somewhat, shifting their investments into other initiatives.
Technology Solutions Will Play a Bigger Role Than Ever
After the accumulated experience that remote work has provided many businesses with their technology solutions, it is unlikely that these solutions will be abandoned once remote work is no longer a necessity. Instead, they are most likely going to continue within the office space, shifting the approaches taken to everyday tasks.
For a few examples, one only must look to the tools that will assist a team in allocating office space—things like conference room availability and parking—to see how IT could help to make the office more cohesive and convenient to employees. It also is likely that voice assistants will rise in popularity as the prospect of physically touching things around the office continues to give team members pause. Furthermore, with a much larger portion of a business’ workforce engaging in remote operations, collaborative tools that incorporate a visual element (like connected whiteboards and the like) into their communications will grow in importance.
Office Spaces Will Emerge, Innovate, and Improve
Hopefully, you’ve noticed a pattern thus far, one where technology is used to balance an employee’s productivity with helping to maintain their health and safety simultaneously. This approach is inherently better for the employing business and its employees alike, so there is little reason for it to be completely abandoned once no longer strictly necessary.
For instance, with so many businesses embracing the benefits of remote operations to great success, offices will be able to scale back in terms of footprint, saving money and using what remains more efficiently. Scheduling solutions that pair with the Internet of Things will help to more effectively manage the space that remains. Some larger businesses (and perhaps, in time, small-to-medium-sized ones as well) have elected to maintain their extra space, converting them into beneficial facilities for their employees’ families. Using this space to host young family members and provide some form of childcare for employees could prove to be an enticing reason to keep at least some of their additional space available.
Alternatively, many businesses may adopt a kind of “out-of-office office space,” with professional work environments maintained away from the main headquarters. This will help employees to work productively without having to necessarily make the trip into a business’ official location. This, combined with the communications and collaboration solutions we’ve discussed, could potentially fill vacant areas while making the work/home balance more sustainable for team members.
What do you foresee happening once businesses are no longer restricted in their operations by the current safety precautions? Do you agree that we’ll see changes like these?
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