For some, it will soon be a year since the last time they set foot in an office. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to sweep through countries, it is sometimes hard to remember that days were once punctuated by a daily commute, water cooler chats and afterwork drinks. But although the timeline is still unclear, offices will inevitably re-open in the future – leaving many wondering what kind of a workspace they will be stepping into on the day that they get to dust off their office shoes. Analysis firm CCS Insights predicts that in 2022 more than half of all office-based employees will still work mainly remotely. Whether you are team WFH, or increasingly desperate to return to the comfort of an office desk, one thing is for certain: with half of the workforce at home, at least on a semi-permanent basis, workspaces will no longer be designed to accommodate floods of employees coming in every morning for another nine-to-five shift.
Peter van Woerkum has spent the past few weeks working in, and fine-tuning, what could turn out to be something very like the office of the future: the office of our coronavirus-altered future, that is. He takes the lift (in which only two employees are allowed at a time) then walks clockwise to reception and grabs a recycled paper mat to cover his desk while he works. He makes his way through the now extra-roomy office – the firm has removed furniture to avoid clutter – to a workspace, which has, of course, been thoroughly cleaned overnight. This TechRepublic Premium ebook compiles the latest on cancelled conferences, cybersecurity attacks, remote work tips, and the impact this pandemic is having on the tech industry. He brings his own keyboard, mouse, and laptop. Near his desk, there are marks on the floor indicating how close his colleagues should stand if they fancy coming over for a chat. If he needs the bathroom, he has to follow a specific route designed to avoid bumping into other workers. And his keyring has a new addition: a copper token that he can use to press buttons and open doors without touching any surfaces. SEE: IT pro's roadmap to working remotely (free PDF) Since mid-March, Cushman and Wakefield, the real estate company where van Woerkum is chief operating officer, has been thinking about the transformation that the office will need to go through as employees start returning to work.
IT departments have had a hectic few months. With organizations across the globe switching to remote working overnight, the majority of IT professionals report that their workloads have increased significantly – by as much as 37%, according to recent research. And unfortunately for support desks, this might only be the beginning. Now countries are gradually exiting lockdowns, and the focus is on a potential return to the office, at least for some employees. That may sound like fewer tickets filed for faulty WFH laptops or video call fails; but in reality, IT teams are bracing themselves for a storm of new issues.
Most of us have spent the past few months working from home. Rather than the odd day here or there, most people – apart from those fulfilling essential roles – have logged in and worked remotely. The great work-from-home experiment has by and large produced positive results in challenging circumstances. For Andrew Hewitt, analyst at researcher Forrester, the impact will – at least in part – be a permanent exodus from the office. Businesses might have been reticent to allow staff to work from home in the past, but that's no longer the case.
According to a Bloomberg report, Sundar Pichai, Google's CEO, told Google employees on Thursday to be ready to work remotely through October and possibly to the end of the year. Actually, a Google spokeswoman said most Google workers are expected to work from home until 2021. Most every organization has been thrust into the future of work faster than prognosticators dared imagine. What will determine failure or success in this brave new world of work? Facebook has also told its staffers that most of them can continue to work from home through the end of the year.