With millions of workers across the country shifting to home working during the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a growing debate about whether or not this abrupt and wholesale shift will last. Once vaccines are rolled out, will there be pressure for remote workers to return to the office?
The experience of the summer
Once the first UK lockdown was lifted and people were allowed to return to their workplaces, there was some pressure from the government for people to get back into the office. This was largely prompted about fears for the ongoing economic viability of ancillary businesses that rely on footfall in city and town centres, such as coffee chains.
Despite this, many people chose not to return to the office, either negotiating a new arrangement with their employer or being encouraged to continue by an employer who now wanted to make a shift to a more remote set-up. The return to lockdown in November has again illustrated the need for businesses to be adaptable if they wish to be truly resilient.
Beyond the vaccine
With vaccine rollouts now on the horizon, there is some speculation about a return to a pre-pandemic normal. This seems unlikely for a number of reasons. Firstly, any vaccine is likely to take some time to roll-out, with the healthy working-age population perhaps the last in line to receive it. From a health perspective, it may still be prudent for many people to continue working from home, not only to reduce the risk from themselves but also to reduce their capacity to spread the virus.
Secondly, remote working has been a positive experience for many workers. It’s enabled them to save money by ditching the expensive commute, work more efficiently and find a better work/life balance. While some people, perhaps single people and younger workers, may be keen to re-enter the traditional workplace, others will not.
Thirdly, remote working has proven beneficial to some employers, who may see this as a chance to reduce their overheads. Remote-working also has benefits in terms of recruitment because you no longer require people to live within easy commutable distance from the office.
A blended pattern
A term that has come to the fore over recent months is ‘blended working’. This envisages a future where businesses retain a central office design but it’s perhaps smaller, and where some people are office-based, and others work remotely. Individuals may be able to choose their own pattern, with some office-based work each week, the rest being conducted remotely. This mirrors a pattern frequently seen with the self-employed and freelancers who take advantage of co-working spaces as a means to network, combat loneliness and provide variety.
Benefits all round?
Fewer people working in central offices could lead to difficulties for some ancillary businesses whose business model is based on a high city centre footfall. Conversely, it could be a catalyst for economic development in smaller towns, where remote workers stay home rather than taking their economic power with them to the nearby city as a commuter. Will changing work patterns affect your business? Speak to the expert team at Flow Office for advice on how best to move your business forward.