What’s the Future of Work Post COVID-19?

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist
SpaceIQ

Since the earliest days of the coronavirus pandemic, companies have speculated on the future of work post COVID-19. As the months dragged on, most companies came to the same conclusion: the future of work depends on a successful pivot during the pandemic. Rather than wait for the virus to pass, companies began to explore new work schedules, desking concepts, remote work, and a host of new workplace standards and practices.

While much of the workforce is still settling in almost a year into the pandemic, the future of work post COVID-19 is becoming clearer—thanks in large part to the adaptations of leading companies. Here’s what’s trending up and paving the way for the future of work in our upcoming post-pandemic world.

Remote work is here to stay

Remote work was arguably the single biggest pivot during the pandemic. The exodus from the workplace to home offices, dining room tables, and couches has proven that a significant portion of the population can work from home. As they settle in, many employees are finding that they enjoy the freedom remote work affords them, and are willing to put up with some of the cons attached to it.

Employers are also discovering the benefits of a remote workforce. Expect many employers to trim back their workplace footprint in the coming years as more employees opt for remote work. New workplace desking concepts are also good for the bottom line, as they exhibit better space utilization and cost-efficiency.

The amicable view on remote work by both employers and employees indicates this is one trend that’s here to stay.

Distributed teams

In conjunction with remote work, distributed teams are also sure to stick around. Whether they’re all remote or a mixture of remote vs. in-office, teams are no longer in the same place, which means their communication standards have changed.

The future is filled with more Slack messages, Zoom calls, and Dropbox collaborations. Teams might not all be in the same place, but they need to be on the same page. Employers need to take distributed teams into consideration as they plan upcoming investments in technology and look for ways to upskill managers.

Hoteling emerges in a big way

Hoteling office space is right behind remote work in terms of lasting changes to how we work. Hoteling has allowed companies to facilitate a safe return to work by giving employees the freedom to choose their workspace, while tracking workspace utilization. It’s not only great for contact tracing, it’s a valuable desking concept for agile work environments and companies practicing flex work.

Hoteling offers a perfect medium between the freedom of hot desking and the structure of assigned or static workspaces. Managed correctly, hoteling will become the lynchpin for companies with complex scheduling across flex teams. As we move past the pandemic, employers will look for ways to downsize their square footage while growing their workforce, and they’ll rely on hoteling and flex work to balance these adjustments.

How will coworking and hot desks fare?

In 2018 and 2019, hot desking and coworking appeared to be the clear frontrunners in the future of work. These workplace concepts even ushered in the current crop of space planning software more and more companies will rely on into the future.

While hot desking and coworking will see a rebound post-pandemic, there’s fear that they won’t bounce back with as much gusto. Coworking spaces will reappear and may thrive thanks to a significant uptick in remote workers, but the business model has become shakier under the context of the pandemic. Hot desks may cede their share of the workplace to hotel desks, which give more control to facility managers when it comes to understanding worker habits and workspace utilization.

We haven’t seen the end of coworking and hot desks, but the future might bring different iterations of these concepts from what we know them as pre-pandemic.

Will we ever go back to static desks or open offices?

The future is the age of the agile workplace, which means we’re not likely to see a resurgence of static desking concepts. Open offices aren’t off the table, however, provided they’re rooted in flex work principles. Benching won’t likely bounce back as well—breakout spaces will take their place.

The more dynamic an individual workspace, the more likely its future in a post COVID-19 workplace. The reason? Dedicated space will become a burden on the balance sheet if distancing policies stay in place. Even if they don’t, employees are becoming acclimated to new occupancy standards and won’t want to pack into confined spaces if they can help it.

Early trends squash speculation

The above trends aren’t speculation—they’re emerging standards. Almost one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re seeing the makings of a future beyond it. The adjustments and transitions companies are making now aren’t short-term pivots—they’re planning for the future. There’s no going back.

While these standards will continue to evolve, they’re setting the stage for employee expectations. After a mass migration to remote work, distributed teams, hoteling, and flex work, employers and employees alike won’t be in any hurry to up-end their work arrangement again!

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