At the beginning of 2020, no one would have predicted just how much of an impact that COVID-19 was going to have on every aspect of our lives, including our working lives.
It is clear that the ‘normal’ workplace we remember pre COVID-19 will not be returning anytime soon.
So what sort of changes are we likely to expect?
New health and safety measures
When the Government announces that it is safe to return to the workplace, one of the most obvious changes will be new health and safety measures.
In the short term, it is likely that companies will need to ensure that regular cleaning is carried out and protective screens are implemented in open plan offices and reception areas. Also, to ensure that social distancing is being adhered to, it is likely that floor markings will be added and communal kitchen areas will no longer be permitted.
In the long term, this may put an end to open plan offices and ‘hot desks’. Technology will also improve so that there will be less touchpoints in a shared office space, for example using lifts, coffee machines, opening doors etc.
Working from home
Working from home will remain popular, particularly for those who work in the technology sector and individuals with dependants. Ed O’ Donnell, Head of DevOps at Teckro predicts that in most companies, 20% of employees will be working from home from now on. It is important to get the balance right of working from home and being in the office to positively affect employee satisfaction and reduce costs.
Professor André Spicer, from City University’s Cass Business School suggested that offices will become hubs where senior managers are based and employees will commute to have meetings once or twice a week. This is the approach that Twitter has taken, with all employees working from home but keeping their offices open if anyone wants to come in.
Demand for office space will drop
The increase in popularity of working from home in the technology sector will have a significant impact on Ireland, in particular Dublin.
Dublin is known as the tech hub of Europe, with some of the largest technology companies having their EMEA HQ based in the city, including Facebook, LinkedIn & Google. Technology companies have taken up the majority of office space in Dublin (56% in 2019), but this increasing popularity to work from home may decrease this demand for office space and halt new developments. This will also decrease the demand for housing in the city, having a positive effect on the housing crisis that Dublin is currently facing.
Working from home has also increased the popularity of flexible working. It is evident that the typical 9-5 working day is no longer suited to the modern workforce.
Instead of focusing on the number of hours worked, managers will be focusing on getting work completed to a high standard and delivering results. This provides flexibility for employees to choose when and how they carry out their work, taking into consideration their needs and the needs of the company.
Therefore companies will need to offer flexible working options in the future if they want to compete for high quality candidates.
With regards to the hiring process, it may become more common for interviews to be conducted via a video conferencing platform rather than face-to-face.
In situations where interviews are conducted face-to-face, precautionary measures will need to be put in place such as protective screens and banning the use of handshakes. This is already evident in the football world where managers and players can be seen touching elbows instead of exchanging handshakes after a match.
The increasing popularity of working remotely will also change what hiring managers are looking for from candidates. There will be more of an emphasis placed on candidates who are willing to take initiative, are trustworthy, have good problem solving skills and have a high level of technical skills.
Lastly, management will need to plan how they are going to support the wellbeing of their team when employees return to the office.
Management should promote a culture of active listening and support to encourage employees to share more about their personal situations. If management know what is going on in employees lives, they can predict the implications that this will have on productivity and plan how to reduce any disruption.
Written by Michelle Young