The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated a trend that has been driving change within the Australian workforce for a while: the move to more flexible working models to accommodate for workers’ increased mobility and expectations for more remote working options.
What the current Covid crisis has shown us is that those new hybrid working models where people alternate from going into the office and working remotely are not only becoming more pervasive, they are here to stay.
Just a few weeks ago, Google announced they were extending their remote working policies beyond 2021, while Microsoft said hybrid working would become the new normal across Asia Pacific.
While this new reality is undeniable, and while working from home is a great option, working for home every day for months on end isn't a sustainable model and comes with many long term risks both at an individual and business level.
Long term risks of working from home
As the OECD pointed out in its latest report, while the era of remote work has become a reality there are major concerns about work satisfaction and productivity in the long run. According to the report, not everyone has the luxury and the capability of working from home and this may exacerbate existing inequalities, while many workers are stuck working in a home environment that is less than ideal, in spaces that are unsuitable for work and/or alongside children.
Indeed, in addition from the mental stress strain that working from home and social isolation for long stretches of time can have on workers, there are also physical consequences for individuals that do not have a proper workspace set up (i.e access to a proper desk, ergonomic chair, etc), and business risks for the organisation (cybersecurity, decreased quality of team collaboration and productivity levels).
Although many organisations today are helping employees by sharing home office workspaces guidelines, mental health support, and providing extra levels of collaboration enablement and cybersecurity, in many cases this cannot match the set-up of a professional workspace.
Moving work closer to people’s homes in flexible, ready-to-use workspaces
With the Covid-19 pandemic and due to strict social distancing measures CBD areas across Australian cities and large office spaces have been deserted.
For the remote, hybrid working model to work long term we need to find new ways to move work closer to people’s homes, in more professionalised and ready to use spaces that can be rented out flexibly.
We are already seeing a rise in the number of Aussie organisations and workers opting for renting out all equipped spaces - whether it be single desks, meeting rooms or other types of office spaces for short periods of time, from an hour, a day, a week, or a month.
Many unused or under-utilised commercial spaces across Australian cities are being transformed into modular office spaces equipped with all the adequate workspace equipment, from physical furniture such as desks, chairs and more to IT solutions including secure Wi-Fi and enterprise-grade collaboration tools.
We even start to see new types of commercial spaces such as hotels transforming their unused rooms into short-term working spaces for professionals.
As people still need to collaborate on projects, and need or want to get out of the house few days/week, more and more ‘Project Spaces’ pop up across the country. Those are compartmentalised and ready-to-use spaces that can expand or downsize based on businesses and teams’ needs, size and type of projects to adapt to today’s uncertain times, fully serviced with for example Covid-Safe measures and cleaning
A collaborative approach to building new hybrid working model frameworks, for long term resilience
It is important business leaders, IT experts and HR managers work hand in hand to build policies and frameworks that allow staff to work remotely within a professional setting. It is organisations’ duty to provide employees with workspaces that are safe, cybersecure, and appropriately equipped to ensure physical and mental health.
The rise of those flexible, modular office spaces closer to people’s homes is a fantastic opportunity that business and technology leaders need to seize to ensure remote working policies are sustainable in the long run.
Only by shifting the traditional office space model will we build resilience both for our local businesses and for workers' health and productivity in the long term, as well as set flexible and hybrid working frameworks up for success.