COVID-19 affected every area of our lives and the workplace model has by no means been immune to this change. Following the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019, many aspects of our everyday lives were turned upside down, and only now that things are starting to normalise has it become apparent which changes are here to stay.
Workspace changes as a result of COVID have been some of the most wide-ranging. They’ve been especially noticeable in the physical office space, and it can be easy to forget what it once was. Of course, these changes are different for every country and company so there’s no one-size-fits-all answer for what the post-pandemic workplace looks like, nor can anyone tell you with certainty what your specific situation will look like.
In this article we’re going to explore general changes and trends in workspace changes after COVID-19, especially the long-lasting ones which look set to stick around.
Remote work has become standard
When it comes to office jobs, there was a period when many organisations were forced to allow their workforce to work remotely, so that the population wouldn’t have to come into contact with other people on their commute or in the workplace, limiting social contact.
Since the end of the pandemic though, many workers have demanded the option to continue to work remotely for the benefit of work-life balance achieved by cutting out the amount of time commuting. The other side of that argument is the supposed link between remote work and mental health issues, due to not being able to switch off when the final bell rings.
Essentially, it comes down to the preferences of the independent workers and what they prefer and feel most comfortable with. Many people gain benefits from the face-to-face interaction that the office provides, whilst many still don’t feel safe to go back in.
Lots of companies have also adopted a hybrid model for their workforce, meaning that for example, they will only have to come into the office twice a week and work remotely for the remaining three days. This is especially prevalent in big cities, where the risk of COVID transmission has typically been higher, and offices cost more to maintain.
The pandemic forced people to learn the skills to use tools like Teams to host virtual meetings and attend virtual events in order to keep up their workflow whilst working from home.
As useful as these skills are, some business leaders think that this is still no match for being physically present, and that is why even though they allow their workers to work from home for the most part, the hybrid model is definitely rising in popularity.
Workers are looking to switch jobs more often than pre-COVID
You might have heard in recent months of the supposed surprise in so-called “quiet-quitting”, where employees are essentially doing less of their expected responsibilities whilst looking for new work opportunities, without informing their employers. It’s clear that the pandemic has changed employee expectations and they are no longer as loyal as they once were, but why?
Forbes analysed multiple studies to identify the main reasons behind this phenomenon and reported that those most commonly cited were career advancement, employer-related benefits, a company culture, removal of remote work possibilities, and work-life balance. We’ll take a look at each of these factors in more detail to understand their impact better.
Employees want to feel they are advancing in their careers
Career advancement has always been important, but during the pandemic when many industries grinded to a halt and businesses closed their doors, professionals were for the most part happy to retain their employment. This meant that advancing careers were put on hold and left to the future, whilst businesses focused on keeping afloat.
In a post-pandemic world, many professionals now feel like they have wasted a lot of their career time without moving forward, and that they are now not being valued enough.
This has led to a drive in the pursuit of training and career advancement, and even if they have to quit in order to be employed somewhere else with a better wage and title, many professionals agree that this is a good trade to make.
Employer-provided benefits are very important
Employer-provided benefits have been a huge component of employment offerings in the US for many years, and have started to become more and more popular in the UK too.
Whilst we already have a public health service, workers are often drawn in by private healthcare benefits that would otherwise cost them a hefty chunk of their wage. There are tons of potential benefits out there, and we’re not talking about free fruit Fridays or an invitation to the company Christmas party.
We are talking about really strong benefits that would cost money otherwise, like free public transportation to get you to-and-from work, bonuses, share schemes, high-street discount schemes, access to exclusive events, and maybe most importantly of all, extra-curricular training opportunities.
Working remotely is no longer a choice
For many employers, permitting their employees to work remotely (whether that be working from home, a cafe or a co-working space) is no longer something that they are willing to do, and this can be for a myriad of reasons.
Some common reasons are that their business models show that their workforce’s output is less effective, the cost of their office rent and upkeep needs justification, or they want to promote a synergy that can only be replicated by face-to-face meetings. Whatever the reason, many professionals no longer want to work in the office, so this can come as a dealbreaker.
Some employers are promoting a hybrid model of working, so that their employees are only expected in the office for a couple of days per week, but for many of the workforce this is still no longer acceptable, so they are choosing to find an employer who will allow them to WFH.
Work-life balance is coming first
Working from home with less employee expectations in terms of physical visibility, has essentially translated to an improvement in work-life balance. Having a good work-life balance means having the ability to still enjoy the rest of your time outside of work, and when we typically spend 1/3 of our lives asleep, the rest of our time is understandably valuable.
Say for example that the pandemic allowed an employee to pick up their children from school everyday, go to the gym more religiously, or even just cut out a 2-hour round-commute five days per week, it’s easy to see why they would attribute value to those work patterns.
Getting a good work-life balance is healthy and can prevent burnout in professionals, so it is good to see how some employers have continued to champion this. It’s also understandable that the retention of this privilege can be important to many, which is why they might be choosing to quiet quit if they can no longer achieve it.
Employees are seeking out complementary company cultures
Even before the pandemic, “company culture” was a buzzword thrown about, even if the company offering consisted of daily 9AM meetings and aggressive management practice. A strong company culture is typically one that rewards hard-work and loyalty, fosters and trains new skills to their staff, promotes friendship, and values their workforce.
Company culture can mean a lot of things though, and the truth is that different people want different things from their employer. If they have experienced a toxic work culture in the past though, and are able to demand an improvement in that now, how could they really be blamed for quiet quitting and pursuing a culture that complements them.
Virtual workspaces will be a reality for many companies
Maybe your workforce has become used to working remotely and the distraction-free environment that it poses, and maybe they aren’t quite ready to transition back to what they had before.
We live in a digital world, and for lots of companies having a “virtual-first” approach to how their workforce operates can be beneficial. Virtual-first means that all employees’ primary offices are their home, which is obviously only an applicable business model if your company operates digitally and on phones.
Boardroom meetings, brainstorms, scrums, and all the rest of the office terms for face-to-face-meetings, can be done remotely in most instances, and lots of companies are willing to pay allowances to their employees so that they are equipped for such occasions.
Of course this is not an option for frontline workers and people who need to physically be somewhere in order to work, like builders and teachers, but more than half of employees in the UK are office workers. Often, essential in-person meetings (like pitches for example) can be arranged as one-offs, limiting the amount of in-person work whilst remaining efficient.
How have office workers adapted to a virtual workspace?
Working from home doesn’t have to mean working less, and we will explore the studies relating to that in the next section. Most people who have successfully adopted working virtually have ascribed their success to keeping a routine, as if they were in the office, and making sure that they have a dedicated workspace within their home to hunker down in.
The post-pandemic workforce in the digital industry has come to expect some degree of virtuality in their work world, and any new workers taken on during this time will have been well trained in how to operate in this space. Many organisations have realigned their finances to budget less for commercial real estate, so if their office spaces can remain virtual, why not?
What do the studies on working from home say?
Some recent studies have found that people are less productive while working from home, whilst others have shown the opposite, meaning that it’s been possible for the argument to swing either way depending on the individual establishment.
The Professional Body for HR and People Development (CIPD) has said that as the pandemic has gone on, an increasing number of employers have noted increased productivity from home and hybrid working solutions, with many employees citing improved well-being.
They asked over 1,000 employers and 2,000 employees in the UK for their views on having to work from home, the lack of physical interaction, and how that has affected their productivity. They asked these questions both in December 2020 and in November 2021 when the economic recovery had begun, and then compared the results.
When talking about home working increasing an organisation’s productivity or efficiency, 33% of employers noted an increase in the first instance, which went up to 41% when asked the second time around, likely due to better assimilation to the remote working practises.
When asked if home and hybrid working has had a negative effect on their organisation’s efficiency, originally 23% said that it did back in December 2020, whilst this changed to only 18% when asked at the end of 2021. So across the board, any perceived decreases in productivity during the pandemic have lowered as remote workers have become the norm.
One other statistic from this piece of research worth mentioning here is that in the most recent piece of research, a whopping 39% of employees said that they would like to work from home all or at least most of the time going forward. All of these statistics point to the fact that working habits have forever changed in the post-covid workplace.
There can be issues with security with remote work
It’s a brave new world out there for remote workers, who are no longer tied to their desk and can work from anywhere. But even though many companies are embracing the trend, there are some challenges that come with working outside an office, and one of these is cyber security.
Issues with cyber security can be one of the most prominent potential downsides of a workforce that is working remotely. When employees aren’t in the same physical space, there’s less opportunity for them to interact with one another and share ideas, meaning that collaboration has to take place online with cloud-based office tools.
There have been many high-profile cases in recent years where this alteration has been exploited, most often as it’s easier for hackers to pose as someone else online when they’re not looking at their target face-to-face, and when they have a bigger surface area to infiltrate.
With many people working remotely, it’s important to ensure that all your systems are protected, and often this has been somewhat overlooked when a workforce has moved completely online.
When it comes to sharing files or information with others in your company; to ensure that your files are safe, being able to use secure file transfer software that encrypts all data being transmitted cannot be accessed from outside, is one of the things you can do in this new era.
But the list is actually extensive, and multiple modes of security are often required to keep organisations secured, especially if they are global and cannot connect to a secured VPN.
It would be off-topic to fully explore this area in this article, but the takeaway is that the increased threat of cyber security risks, and the associated costs that come with alleviating those risks can offset the cost savings from giving up their office space.
“Tune out to tune in”
Ever since the pandemic brought in a cause for concern for maintaining our own personal spaces in order to protect ourselves, it has become something that people are still demanding in the workplace. Most employees will expect to have some level of personal space even in the office, and this requirement can range from an assigned desk to a specified social safety net.
For the first point, office pods can give an opportunity for employees to maintain their expected standards of personal care with no need for more space to expand into.
Some employees work better with an increased level of privacy when making calls or working on something important, and this desire for separation has been compounded by a reliance on social distancing that we expect after COVID-19.
Office pods are also great options for people who are working from home, because they serve to cut you off from the outside work for the duration that you’re inside, meaning that you can take time to focus on getting something ticked off of your to-do list.
Having this opportunity readily available to “tune out” of outside distractions is probably the most appealing reason to get an office pod, allowing you to “tune in” to the task you need to complete. They are a versatile product, and there are models which allow multiple co-workers to fit in the same space, which can be essential for social interactions.
Are office pods the future of work?
It is still not clear how our workspaces will look post-pandemic, but office pods might well factor in as one part of the puzzle that ends up being the solution companies need. Business relationships are increasingly virtual, and personal space is a factor that employees are demanding more.
Employee engagement is improved when requests are listened to, and as economies reopen, it’s undeniable that workers want to spend less time in the office, and when they do, they want it to feel safe and inspiring. Office pods offer both of these things and make efficient use of small spaces (even outdoor spaces) to create the extra dynamic that people strive for.
Our office pods at My Office Pod
Our office pods come in different shapes, colours, finishes and are used for different reasons by different people. We believe office pods fit into three main subcategories: meeting pods, phone booths, and work pods.
Our different types of office pods
Meeting pods are typically designed with sound in mind, so are built with acoustic benefits to minimise the potential for sound to enter or leave the pod, which is why they are perfect for meetings.
They are available in all different sizes, from double pods designed just for one-on-one meetings, as well as larger pods made with collaboration in mind able to host a dozen or more. These are the best options for tapping into the “tune-in to tune-out” benefit that many workers are now demanding.
Phone booth office pods are designed somewhat similar to a phone booth that you would find on your day-to-day walking around town. They are perfect for making phone and video calls, and take up a tiny physical footprint in the office, meaning that reorganising your whole floor plan isn’t necessary.
These are one of the most popular office pod types because of their versatility, they can be easily added to a workplace without much ado, and can offer a private work area away from everyone else for an added bit of privacy and quiet.
Probably the most individual option out of the three types posted here today, work pods are designed to offer a mini-office for an individual to work on something away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the office. They generally come with a desk already installed along one side so that a worker can set up easily and plug their devices into the mains.
Work pods come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and are actually the most popular type of office pod for remote work, acting as satellite offices for those unwilling to travel into the office every day. There are also sit-and-stand options, designed to increase well-being at work with the physical benefits they bring.
What does the future hold for the workplace?
Since COVID-19, many professionals are starting to realise that they can work from anywhere, and with the increasing popularity of coworking spaces, it is hard to predict where the office and workplace of the future are headed.
Hybrid office spaces, though not entirely new, are finding a resurgence in popularity and are likely to become even more common in the years ahead. The rise of hybrid models, flexible working hours, and jobs that require a great deal of workspace mobility will ensure that this trend continues.
Achieving successful flexible working arrangements can work by combining short-term coworking with location-based work in a workplace that offers both formal and informal collaboration opportunities. If you want to explore office pods for your workplace, feel free to get in touch with our friendly team today to explore your options.