The direct impacts of the pandemic are now thankfully largely behind us, but talking recently to members, it’s clear the long-term consequences are still being felt and there’s no saying when they will all play out.
First up is the issue of flexible working, which was forced on businesses who couldn’t operate as normal. Many people, particularly senior and experience staff who lived in nice houses, found working from home suited them very well. They avoided the commute, had a better family life and were able to concentrate on their work without being disturbed by junior colleagues asking questions.
The immediate losers were those younger members of staff who found themselves working on a laptop in their bedrooms without easy access to the sort of informal support and social contact they would have found in the office. It’s hard to calculate the impact, but it is reasonable to assume they may not have developed the same skills and aptitudes as they would have done had they had normal contact. There must also be a question mark about the impact on school leavers and graduates whose school and university life was seriously affected.
But there are other factors to consider too. For example, managers have reported a drop off in creativity, which sometimes came about from chance conversions or an in person brainstorming session. They are generally responding to that by encouraging, or sometimes insisting that people spend more time in the office, which in itself needs careful handling to ensure both the individuals and the business are treated fairly.
It seems clear that the five-day week in the office is, for very many people, a thing of the past. Which brings us to the next issue of how much office space will businesses need in the future? If you employ 100 people but know they will never all be in the building at the same time, why would you rent a space that would accommodate that number?
Many companies must be mulling over that question when deciding whether or not to renew a lease. They could reduce costs by moving to smaller premises. On the other hand they might seek to make their offices more appealing to staff and so upgrade and end up spending the same, or even more!
The virus may be behind us, but it has left a legacy which still contains more questions than answers, which means our forums in which members share experiences will continue to be as vital as ever.