The return to the office

By Katie Simpson, managing director, corporate affairs and financial, of global recruitment firm Hanson Search

There has been much discussion about how the business world, will change following Covid. There is a wide consensus that when we return to normal, we, well…won’t. In short, there is now effectively no normal to return to.

Our working world may never be the same again, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Key lessons from 2020 will help us build a brighter future. Next year will be the beginning of a transition towards something new.

As recruiters, we often hear first hand about the effects of the pandemic and resultant lockdown.

Businesses, large and small, have experienced remarkable change and rapidly adapted. This ability to adapt and pivot has helped leaders and their businesses evolve, and  survive.

As change is not going to slow into 2021, small- and medium-sized firms will need to anticipate the challenges that lie ahead.

Below are four predications for what will happen to the working world in 2021:

1. Working from home is here to stay (for office workers)

Pre-2020 questions on whether working from home can be productive, efficient, and successful have been answered. The proof is in the pudding and working from home is likely to stay, for many office-based jobs.

However, face-to-face interaction shouldn’t be cast aside.  It can be difficult to maintain a strong culture when everyone is completely remote. Many firms will adopt a hybrid model of working,  trying to balance the benefits of home working with those of having people come together.

Companies will likely continue to test the waters, trying different scenarios as they wrestle with the right hybrid model for how to work now.

2. Physical office spaces will be reimagined

Companies are reimaging and reconfiguring their workplaces to create the sense of physical and emotional safety that workers now require. CEOs are balancing costs against employee expectations as they prepare their offices – and their workers – for a return. We expect to see office environments change dramatically over the next couple of years.

3. Major reductions in business travel will remain

As businesses have learnt to connect and communicate digitally, they have realised that such communications are effective. Business leaders are reconsidering how often they need to schedule face-to-face meetings and when they can use technology, for employees and clients.  We expect to see the huge decrease in busines travel remain throughout 2021.

4. Digital transformation will continue to accelerate

Technology has ensured that our lives and livelihoods could continue in ways that would not have been possible 15 years ago. The pandemic has shown us that many businesses that have made the most of the right technology have suffered less disruption as a result.  We expect to see even greater emphasis on digital transformation and digital skills as firms seek to use technology to be better prepared in future.  

There are bound to be new and different challenges ahead. But over the past few months, leaders have learned to adapt, survive, and even thrive in the face of unprecedented change. Long may it continue.

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