From hot-desking to holograms, there will be changes for workers returning to the office post-pandemic
by Bethan Rees
The City of London is likely to see most workers return to their offices post-pandemic, says Catherine McGuinness, chair of the Policy and Resources Committee at the City of London Corporation, in a BBC radio interview, according to William Schomberg for Reuters. She adds that there will be changes to the way people work.
According to Schomberg, McGuinness speaks of a "central office base" that will "remain at the core" of businesses, "with people coming in three or four days, working different hours".
She speaks of developers planning new buildings in the City of London, with a "surge of interest" in planning applications for office space in the City. "I think (we have seen) so far this year 80% of all the applications we saw last year."
Schomberg refers to a KPMG survey published in March 2021 that finds "most major global companies no longer plan to reduce their use of office space after the pandemic". But he also reports that "Nationwide told all its 13,000 office-based staff to work from anywhere in the country" and that it will not be renewing leases on three of its offices in Swindon.
Global remote working
A survey by management consultant Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and recruitment company The Network finds that 89% of 209,000 respondents in 190 countries expect their jobs to be partly remote after the pandemic. A report based on the study, Decoding global ways of working, was published on 31 March 2021.
Rainer Strack, one of the authors of the study and a senior partner at BCG, is quoted in the press release. He says that "people got a taste of remote work during the pandemic, and it has completely changed their expectations" and adds that the survey "sends a very clear message … Employers can’t treat working from home as an occasional perk anymore."
A hybrid working model, where an employee works two or three days a week from home and the rest in the office, is preferred, according to the study. "Even study participants who have jobs that require the handling of physical goods, or contact with clients, expressed a desire for setups that would allow them to work remotely at least occasionally," the press release says. One in four respondents said they would switch to a completely remote model if they could.
"The enthusiasm for fully remote work is particularly low in developed countries," with only 7% of people in Denmark and 8% in Switzerland and France opting for this. In developing countries, the appetite for fully remote work is larger. For example, 40% of respondents in the Philippines and parts of Africa say they would be willing to work from home permanently.
Boston Consulting Group press release
Changes to physical offices
As some companies prepare to have employees back in their offices, experts say changes in the office spaces themselves could be on the horizon, writes Jane Margolies for The New York Times. "Expect expanded gathering spaces and fewer personal workstations, for instance," writes Margolies.
She notes that companies such as Google, Microsoft and Walmart have announced a hybrid working model. Referencing a March 2021 survey of 164 commercial landlords and senior real estate executives in the US by real estate technology platform KayoCloud, Margolies writes that more than 80% of the surveyed companies are embracing a hybrid model.
"Now … not only safety measures but also the new work arrangements are driving discussions about the post-pandemic workplace" and "common areas will be increased and equipped with furniture that can be moved as needs change", says Margolies. She says that hot-desking is replacing personal desks in some cases and conference rooms are being updated. "In the past, these rooms were predicated on the idea of people gathering in person. A large screen on a wall might be used for presentations or to let an executive in another location make a cameo appearance," she writes. Walking through an office could also become a more hands-free experience, assisted by mobile apps, sensors and voice controls.
"But some employees are permanently moving to remote work, and companies are puzzling over how to give them the same ability to participate as those who are physically present. There are even early discussions about using artificial intelligence to conjure up holographic representations of employees who are off-site but could still take a seat at the table," Margolies notes.
The New York Times article