Out of office, for the festive season and beyond

The Business Exchange CEO David Seinker on whether working from home is sustainable long-term.

The office (not to be confused with the American mockumentary TV series) is definitely a frontrunner for the title of Most Contentious Space of 2020. Workers have long loved to hate it, but now that working from home has become a daily reality for so many, they’re missing the camaraderie of the workplace.

So is working from home the “new normal”, or will socially-distanced watercooler chats with colleagues still be a part of our future?

The latter part of lockdown has proved that the office hasn’t quite yet left the building. And while it’s generally accepted that we can’t simply go back to the way things were before Covid-19, it’s clear that working from home indefinitely probably isn’t the answer either.

Some industries simply don’t lend themselves to remote working, while many employees don’t have access to the necessary resources at home to do their best work. Even for those who do, the novelty soon wears thin after an exhausting day of video calls – not to mention the challenge of managing children, partners and pets while trying to get some work done. It’s also difficult to disconnect at the end of the working day when your laptop is in your living room. In fact, it can often feel more like “living at work” than “working at home”.

Meanwhile, back at the office, many businesses have downsized after realising that they no longer need quite as much space as they previously believed. Or, they can no longer afford the rents they used to pay. And in the current fast-changing reality, being tied down by long, inflexible leases just isn’t sensible.

I believe that the answer lies neither in working from home permanently nor in going back to the office full-time. A hybrid model could well be the most effective solution for employers and employees alike, offering the flexibility of working from the office on certain days, and remotely on others.

One option we see working particularly well for businesses is distributing their staff among co-working spaces that provide all the facilities they need, and which are regularly cleaned and sanitised. Offices that are designated to individual companies or teams, and arranged to minimise the risk of interaction, lower the chances of cross-infection, while making it easy to retain company culture and organisational values.

There has also been an explosion of new entrepreneurs thanks to spiralling unemployment rates and people deciding that now is definitely the time to change course in favour of a radical new direction. Now forging their own paths at the start of their new business journeys, they may not have the means – or the inclination – to rent permanent office space, and are therefore pursuing other alternatives.

Renting flexible, fully-serviced workspace relieves the business owner of the burden and cost of managing operational requirements like furnishing and equipping office spaces, keeping them clean, and investing in security and IT infrastructure. At the same time, it provides an environment where people can interact with their colleagues and other like-minded people, enhancing creativity, productivity and problem-solving.

Could a hybrid solution work for your company going into 2021? If you’re among those seeking a new, more flexible way to do business in our fast-changing world, this may well be exactly what you’re looking for.