- As more people get vaccines, employees are now faced with the prospect of returning to the office.
- The post-pandemic workplace will likely look much different than before.
- Expect “hot desks,” potentially relaxed dress codes, and “flex” work schedules.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
This time last year, the world stared in disbelief at the prospect of long-term office closures and turning your home into your indefinite workspace.
Now, as vaccine distributions roll out and the light at the end of the tunnel grows increasingly brighter, workers are gearing up for a possible return to the office.
About half of Americans want to go back into the workplace at least a few days during the week, according to a March survey from Envoy.
But the office they return to likely won’t be the same. The pandemic has reshaped how we think about personal space, interaction with other people, and how we balance our personal and professional lives.
Here’s how the office may be different when we go back in the post-pandemic era.
You’ll split your time between working in the office and at home
Only one in 10 companies anticipate all their staff to return to the office after the pandemic, according to a report by the National Association for Business Economics. Workers have been forced to adapt to, and have now grown comfortable with, spending their regular 9-to-5’s in their homes. But research also suggests that the traditional office setup provides human connection, something many also need after an isolating year.
So “flex” or hybrid work models will likely take over.
Google, Microsoft, Walmart, and others have announced when they welcome their workforces back to the office, they will still allow their employees to work remotely a few days a week. Google, for example, said it will let its staff work two days from home and three days in the office starting in September. Citigroup, Ford, and Target have announced similar plans.
Some companies have taken a more aggressive remote approach. Twitter said in May 2020 that it would allow its employees to work from home permanently. Salesforce is also providing a fully remote option to its workforce, as well as flex- and office-based plans.
On the other hand, Amazon said that it plans to return to an “office-centric culture,” much to the dismay of some employees who told Insider’s Eugene Kim and Ashley Stewart that they were hoping for a more flexible work policy.
There could be downsides to not going into the office as often. For example, as the Washington Post noted, one potential issue could be management favoring workers that are coming into the physical workplace more than those that are not.
And when you do go back, you may be required to get a vaccine – a January survey found that more than half of companies won’t allow workers to come into the office unless they’re vaccinated.
There will likely be so-called ‘hot desks’
Otherwise known as “hot offices” or “hoteling” workstations, companies will swap personal desks with tabletops that employees can reserve for the days that they plan to be in the office.
Offices will likely cater to in-person interaction, with employees coming in to work on collaborative projects. So think open workspaces and fewer personal workstations.
If you moved during the pandemic, you may enjoy the ‘hub-and-spoke’ office concept
As offices shuttered, people transitioned to working remotely, opening up the possibility to relocate to more affordable parts of town or even new cities. Employers will have to factor in their remote and distributed workforces when they usher people back.
The “hub-and-spoke” or”spoke-and-wheel” office concept has been being thrown around for months as a tenet of the “future of work.” It means companies will maintain a smaller central workspace while erecting smaller satellite offices closer to where employees live, such as in the suburbs.
Fast Company reported that Deloitte and KPMG were looking into the model in September, and the hub-and-spoke idea is also making waves in the tech world. Many in the pricey Bay Area have sought more affordable living in suburbs or in other cities altogether, and companies like Amazon, Apple, and Uber have begun making expansions into new markets to meet their employees halfway.
And in leaked audio from a Google all-hands meeting in October, CEO Sundar Pichai said the company was also seeking to expand its office hubs.
You may able to dress more casually
We’ve been living in sweatpants for the past year, and while those may not be appropriate for when we return to the office, we may not be wearing three-piece suits either.
As Inc reported, an “elevated casual” dress code may become the norm as many divide their time between the home and the office, though some industries – like banking and government – will likely be exempt from any sort of pandemic-driven fashion shift.
But employers at large may be more accepting of a pared-down wardrobe. As one expert told Today, “it’s difficult to make any human being change once you get used to it. Who wants to put on a suit?”