Businesses are slowly starting to open up, after months of strict governmental measures put in place to contain the spread of COVID-19. The majority of employees are eager to return to a structured work life, echoed even by professionals that are comfortable with virtually connecting and working remotely. One segment of the population, the Millennials and Gen Z professionals who are accustomed to working from literally anywhere, even before the forced closures brought about by COVID-19, realized the importance of having access to an office.
Whilst increased internet connectivity and the familiarity with interacting virtually have made the shift easier on this segment of workers, there are numerous challenges that surfaced during the lockdown. Younger professionals, and those who recently entered the workforce, found working from home to be greatly challenging. According to a survey conducted by the Gensler Research Institute, entitled ‘U.S. Work From Home Survey’, younger respondents shared their struggles, which differed from their older peers. The survey showed that Millennials and Gen Z workers “are less likely to feel accomplished at the end of a typical day” and “are less aware of what’s expected of them and how their work contributes to organizational goals.”
The challenges of working from home, for both younger and older generations stemmed from a few crucial factors. The first being the difficulty to maintain a proper work / life balance when working from the comfort of their homes. The lack of a workday structure meant that they were putting in longer hours, with less breaks. For others, finding the motivation to work without an organizational structure was a daily struggle. And lastly, the number of distractions at home kept mounting, which contributed to decreased productivity levels.
In the Gensler survey, the top reason to want to return to the office, shared by respondents, was tied to yearning for human interaction. From scheduling meetings with colleagues, to socializing with peers, the need for daily interaction, as well as the community spirit prevalent in many companies, were missed. Other reasons why workers want to head back to the office pertain to increased connectivity and technology, as well as less distractions in the office.
Through various discussions with various BDD community members, we find that people want to return to the office, and that the workplace still matters.
How working from home has changed professionals
Working from home has equipped professionals with skills to become more efficient and master ways to work virtually. Social skills have also taken on a new form, with people finding new ways to interact with colleagues, clients and friends.
The perceived ‘down-time’, fueled by the inability to socialize or engage in social activities, allowed for the C-suite executives and teams alike, to become more innovative. From participating in webinars to reading articles, team members took it upon themselves to find new ways to adapt business models to survive. In addition, many facets of businesses have become digitized. This has led to transforming businesses from the core at an exponential pace.
However, as professionals head back to the office, expectations of the workplace have changed. We can foresee that the workplace will mean that human interactions will become more precious, and colleagues will expect to socialize and connect on a personal level with their peers. Meetings will become more efficient, with clear agendas and more interactive settings.
Carrying on from the comfort of working from home, employees will want more comfortable working spaces when returning. This means sticking to hygiene and sanitary practices, and maintaining social distancing.
With little visibility of how the workplace will look after the end of COVID-19, one thing is for sure… having a place to work that provides structure, connectivity, access to a network and human interaction is integral for survival and productivity.