Since starting as a bit of a hobby with my website I have seen huge changes happen incredibly quickly over the last year regarding working from home. From the initial period when it was mandated that everyone should work from home if at all possible, and a lot of people complained about it, to the point where people are now showing a huge reluctance to go back to the office at all. So what changed and what are the home office trends for 2021?
Have it Your Own Way
With so much happening in 2021, it was difficult to keep up with the speed of change. When the world more or less shut down in 2020 people were in turmoil. Due to social distancing rules in an attempt to curb the spread of the covid pandemic those who were able to work from home were told to do so.
Schools were closed and children had to learn at home. With these two things employers HAD to be a bit understanding that it was not going to be smooth sailing. Zoom meetings became the norm and occasional interruptions from family members or pets became commonplace but were accepted as people got on with juggling work and home life.
The interesting thing was that, surprisingly, companies noticed that despite the interruptions and everything else that people had to take care of the productivity went up. People were doing their jobs as well as everything else and doing it better. On top of the increase in productivity companies were spending less on their office! There was no need for office supplies, no need for heating or cooling of office space and no need for cleaners to clean every day. Costs for offices dropped to the point where companies started to wonder if the office was even necessary at all? Why have a building at all which costs a heap every month (whether rent or mortgage) and all the other costs associated with having that office when people are working perfectly fine at home?
The convenience for the employee was obvious too. No more commute back and forth to the office, no spending hours in traffic jams or in packed commuter transport to arrive at a desk and do exactly the same job they were now doing more productively. No saving chores up for the weekend when traditionally the washing and cleaning was done. A quick hoover could easily be done in a lunch hour or a load of washing could be done in a morning while they worked away at home. This freed up time at weekends to spend on more interesting things.
Yes, there was a downside, and more than one downside (from concerns about people taking advantage to concerns about people burning themselves out from working too much) but in the main the advantages of working from home far outweighed the disadvantages and both employers and employees realised this. Now, as the pandemic appears to be subsiding (in some countries anyway) what are the trends that we will see in 2021 and beyond?
Trends for 2021 and Beyond
The days of the 9-5 Monday to Friday are hopefully a thing of the past, resigned to history like rickets. As people have become accustomed to working from home during the pandemic, they have also become accustomed to the flexibility that it provides. With the number of people who work remotely on a permanent basis likely to double in 2021 from pre-pandemic levels, massive changes to living habits will be inevitable.
- People will move from larger cities to enjoy a better quality of life – with no requirement to be in the office “catchment area” people will start looking for cheaper alternative housing further a-field.
- There will be a rise in the use of managed office facilities for people who want a change from working at home or for collaboration work with colleagues.
- There will be a growing number of company meet-ups in locations which allow for training and in-person meetings although these may only be on an annual basis or when required.
- Cybersecurity will become an issue. With more and more people working from home the threat of cyber-crime and security issues will be huge. Expect cyber-attacks on companies to increase as well.
- With a move away from traditional working in an office. Working hours will become more flexible and salaries may move from being paid for work week hours (32 or 36 hours a week) to a more task based salary.
- Expect holiday destinations to offer longer stay options and ultra fast internet connections to appeal to those remote workers who may stay on for longer and work from their villa / hotel after a couple of weeks vacation.
- Large coffee / sandwich chains such as Pret a Manger or even Starbucks may well start moving their stores out of city centres to smaller venues in community locations where home workers can pick up lunch or have one to one meetings.
- Offices will reduce in size with smaller numbers of desks but an increase in collaboration spaces and meeting rooms.
- Expect companies to recruit the best talent globally. No longer tied to having to recruit in a certain area within commuting distance of their offices, companies will be able to choose from a wider “recruitment pool”.
- One of the downsides or remote working (and a direct result of having a global “recruitment pool”) – companies may lean towards going for cheaper options – expect to see a faster move to employing developing country personnel where they can pay lower salaries.
- As the pandemic passes expect to see people being much happier to go for the working from home option as the experience of returning to work is far outweighed by the convenience of working at home.
- The amount of people who find working from home stressful diminishes and people recognise the source of the stress was more due to the pandemic than working from home.
- There will be a huge uptake in satellite based internet connection companies such as Starlink as people choose to move around more while still working but require the ability to connect from literally anywhere.
That’s just a few of the many directions I can see working from home and remote working going in the next few months and years. As people become more accepting of working from home and see the benefits it will become much more mainstream. One of my recent articles details the thoughts from an expert on remote working and is a good read for those who want to find out a bit more. You can find that article HERE.
In my opinion – I’ve worked in an office for nearly thirty years now and I’ve seen the slow demise of the “community culture” that offices gave. Back in the 80s and 90s the office wasn’t just somewhere to work but provided a great social life as well. Working in an open-plan office back then was really enjoyable and there were many events which encouraged social interaction.
As time has passed there has definitely been a move away from companies providing these type of events and this has seen a decline in the social interaction in offices. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, just that its not the same as it used to be. I see this last year as another step change away from the social element of work and a move to it becoming just “a job”. With companies having the ability to recruit from further afield this “community” will become more fragmented unless it is encouraged. It may turn out that what companies gain in cost savings they may lose out on employee retention and loyalty. Only time will tell.
What is your opinion on the work from home situation? Do you think there will be a move to remote work becoming the norm or will some companies insist on a return to 100% office work? Have you been working from home over the last year? If so, are you happy to continue or do you want to go back?
Of everyone I’ve spoken to the majority of people want to see some sort of hybrid option where they work at home two or three days a week and go into an office the rest. However, I wonder how long the novelty of being back in an office with everything that involves will stay or if, on balance, actually people actually prefer working from home.
Please feel free to add your opinion in the comments below and join in the conversation. I would love to hear your opinion whatever it is.
In the meantime, take care,