The Future Workplace: Will Where We Work Change? – Forbes - Freelance Rack

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Tuesday, August 18, 2020

The Future Workplace: Will Where We Work Change? – Forbes

Traditionally, the workplace has been just that – a place we go to in order to work.

With 8 in 10 company leaders planning to allow employees to work remotely some of the time, according to Gartner research, many are asking whether the days of the physical workplace are numbered. Will our workplace remain an office that we commute to work from, or could it simply be our living space or environment we choose to work?

A place we go to – some of the time

While some organizations such as Twitter, Square, Facebook and Shopify have announced permanent work-from-home plans, not everyone is ready to dispense with the physical workplace just yet.

Working from home has allowed businesses to keep operating during the pandemic, and many employees have thrived, but there’s a growing realization that remote working isn’t for everyone. Some people have struggled with the isolation and loneliness of being apart from their co-workers, while others have had to cope with work-from-home arrangements that are far from ideal. Not everyone has a dedicated office, or even a dedicated working space, they can decamp to. Video calls have proven effective for communicating and collaborating but, arguably, they fall short when it comes to encouraging innovation and relationship-building.

These are just some of the reasons why having a physical workplace is still important, though whether it is used in the same way as before remains to be seen.

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The signs are that post-pandemic, flexible working will become the new ‘normal’; according to estimates from Global Workplace Analytics, 25-30% of the workforce are likely to be working from home multiple days a week by the end of 2021. If this is the case, why would companies spend more than they need to on costly premises or office space that will only be occupied some of the time?

In future, many businesses may decide that a smaller office better suits their needs, and their budget. So, rather than being a place where employees go to work every day, the workplace could become a central hub for employees to gather, collaborate, brainstorm and meet clients when they need to.

Escape the city

If employees aren’t travelling to the office every day, there is less of a need for them to live within reasonable commuting distance. Real estate agents are already reporting a growing trend for migration from large cities to more rural, less densely populated areas as people crave fresh air, a healthier lifestyle and bigger properties with more space for working from home.

As life and work become more rural, international architect and engineering firm BDP predicts that local neighbourhoods will take on a new significance and that businesses will spring up to serve the needs of local workers. This might include hubs offering office equipment such as printers and scanners so that people have what they need nearby.

Mindful of the fact that keeping people physically connected is beneficial, some businesses may look to operate more regional outposts close to where employees live. These would allow employees to escape the confines of home and interact with others without having a long commute. Tech firm Fujitsu has already announced such a strategy in Japan; it plans to halve its office space in the next three years and set up a system of hub and satellite offices in areas where most of its workforce resides.

And for businesses wanting even more flexibility, negotiating a flexible lease or membership with a co-working company like Regus, WeWork or The Office Group could give them access to the regional, national or even international office facilities they need.

Move to another country

While 95% of remote jobs today require workers to be in a certain state or country, usually due to employment and tax laws, around 5% are location-agnostic, according to flexible job search site FlexJobs. As remote working rises in popularity, it is not unreasonable to expect that proportion to grow, which means that, for some people, the workplace could soon be virtually anywhere in the world.

Thanks to new one-year digital nomad visas, that could even mean Bermuda, Barbados, Estonia or Georgia. In a bid to make up for lost tourism due to the pandemic and boost their economies, these countries are hoping to lure remote workers with their beaches, lifestyle benefits or low living costs and (at the time of writing) low coronavirus infection rates.

When travel restrictions ease, working in sunnier climes or experiencing a new culture could be an attractive option for many. Provided people are productive and willing to work across time zones, if required, there is no reason why employers shouldn’t support it.

Anyplace, anywhere

The physical workplace is unlikely to disappear altogether – at least not yet. There are advantages in bringing people together in a single place, even if less frequently than before. But it won’t be the workplace as we know it today. As employers increasingly recognize that output is what matters, not how many hours people spend at their desks, there will be more flexibility in where people work. How much flexibility will depend on the nature of the work but, with the right technology and an Internet connection, it could potentially be anywhere they choose. Desert island, anyone?



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