The COVID-19 virus shuttered many businesses and created a massive new work-from-home model for people in dozens of industries. New technologies and management strategies were hastily created to support employees working remotely.
Now that vaccines for the virus are being distributed at neck-breaking speed and everyone age 16 or older is eligible to receive it, what does that mean for employees and businesses that have been working remotely for the past year?
Government officials and the medical community are telling us that by the end of May, everyone who wants a vaccine for COVID-19 can have one. Nearly 200 million Americans are now fully vaccinated with the number of newly immunized steadily climbing daily. For the first time in months millions of people are considering venturing out of their home office and back to the real thing, but not everyone is eager to return.
While things are still uncertain with new variants of the virus popping up around the world and some people claiming they won’t get vaccinated, one thing is for sure, business as usual will never be the same.
Back To Work? Not Everybody
Many news reports, blogs and podcasts are talking about the disconnect between employees and employers when it comes to returning to the office. Most employees are eager to get back to the office, work with their colleagues in person and return to business as usual. Most employers want their people back in the office. However, there is a significant number of those who are not thrilled about resuming a daily commute, in-person staff meetings and constant interruptions by co-workers in a shared space.
The surveys, news stories and social media trends are confusing when it comes to who wants to be back in the office and who does not. A lot of data shows that men benefit the most working from home with increased productivity while women initially saw a sharp drop. Most people and organizations agree it is because women, who already take on disproportionately more responsibility when it comes to housework and child care, were forced to do even more so with kids homeschooling and everybody in the house nearly 24/7 creating dirty dishes, laundry and other messes.
Data also shows that men were slightly more eager to return to the workplace than women despite being more productive from home. Many women, even with the drop off in productivity and increased burden of homeschooling and household chores, are still the majority that favor working from home, at least part of the time. Their reasons include; the ability to get household chores done during work breaks, being more involved with their kids’ education and, oddly enough, not having to wear work attire and makeup as often.
The Future Is Hybrid
Most employers and their workforce agree that the new business norm will involve a hybrid model with employees working a few days from home and in the office. Most companies invested in video conferencing, training supervisors to effectively manage remote workers and ways to keep employees connected and engaged with one another during the stay-at-home orders at the height of the pandemic. That is not expected to be tossed aside even after most of the general public is vaccinated.
Offices will need to adopt a more open style with less room for fewer employees rather than cramming as many as possible into closely connected cubicles. Technology for proximity alerts and contract tracing when someone in the office gets a positive for COVID-19 test back will be necessary to prevent further outbreaks and closures.
Hybrid Business Model Advantages
The hybrid business model offers many advantages for companies and their employees. A decreased cost to rent office space with employees working staggered shifts and less business travel expenses will save employers millions of dollars a year.
Those who are able to work from home part of the time will see a decline in commuting costs, along with lower lunch and wardrobe expenditures. They’ll also have more time to spend with their families or on daily personal pursuits.
The post COVID-19 Workstyle Lifestyle
2020-21 has been about adapting to working from home and a completely new lifestyle minus happy hours with coworkers or office retreats. But it has offered more time with the family along with a casual Friday vibe every day. Given these trends, it’s not unreasonable to conclude that the new workstyle lifestyle will not disappear completely.
Remote work was already on the rise before the worldwide pandemic. The technology and techniques to keep companies running remotely are not going away. Too many employees want flexibility when it comes to their careers, and that includes the ability to work remotely some days of the week. This makes it unlikely that all businesses will insist on a full work force back in the office every day. Business as usual will be a bit unusual for the foreseeable future as the new hybrid work model becomes the new work norm.