COVID-19 has created significant challenges with regard to how to effectively keep businesses functioning with many employees being required to work from home to avoid possible infection.
The majority of employers have managed this situation very effectively without loss of productivity. The question then arises as to where do we go post-COVID-19? In reality, this question won’t be answered until a vaccine is developed.
Pre pandemic it was thought that the centralised office was critical to productivity, culture, and collaboration. The fact that in the corporate world these issues have not been negatively impacted is largely due to modern technology which has allowed for face-to-face meetings and collaboration will evolve. This will be a result of some employees who will prefer the office environment and some who prefer working from home.
A recent McKinsey and Company report found that 62% of employed Americans have worked from home during the crisis and 80% reported they enjoyed working from home as it allowed for more flexibility in balancing professional and personal lives. Also, many employees were happy at not being required to engage in long commutes every day.
Notably, Ahmed Fahour, CEO of Latitude Financial Services commented that during the lockdown in Victoria they were only using 3% of their office space as most employees were working from home with no loss in productivity. He also announced that they would not be renewing leases at their Sydney and Brisbane offices as those workers would be working from home permanently.
Certainly, in any of the professional services industries, we will see a structural shift wherein staff may attend the office on a set number of days, for example, two days one week and three the next. This will allow for a reduction in office space with the use of “Hot Desking” where employees will share work-spaces.
No doubt city landlords will also face a significant amount of renegotiation with their tenants and possible reduction in the office space required. We have started to see some evidence of this as noted above and also with Global Law Firm Ashurst CEO, Paul Jenkins expecting some 85% of his staff to be working from home. We suspect that this is just the tip of the iceberg.
In the event, there is no doubt that ultimately COVID-19 will see seismic shifts in how we work and interact with our colleagues and clients.