The pandemic affected our personal and professional lives in so many unanticipated ways, but by far the biggest change was in how we work. Business models that horrified employers two years ago are now standard and, to the surprise of most businesses, productivity has increased. As a result, many employers are continuing to allow employees to work from home although surprisingly almost half the workforce still prefer the office environment – a recent study found 55 percent of employees prefer working from home at least 3 days per week while 45 percent said they prefer to work in the office.
Allowing employees the option of working from home has increased productivity for many by just eliminating the time and stress of commuting. Many companies are looking at reducing their overall office space requirements by moving to the concept of “hotel” offices where employees who need an office can check into a vacant office for as long as they need. Another area where both the employer and employee have seen significant gains is the significant reduction in travel. The employer has seen savings in travel costs and the employees have seen significantly less disruption of their home life – not to mention the joy of not having to deal with TSA.
Employees, even the less technically savvy ones who never heard of Zoom a year ago, now routinely host virtual meetings. What is changing now that the pandemic is ending is the etiquette for virtual meetings. While having a baby crying in the background or a cat walking across the keyboard was acceptable during the pandemic, as schools reopen and daycare options become more readily available, businesses are tightening up the rules and looking for more formality in the remote work environment. As a Certified Professional Employer Organization supporting Federal Government Contractors, C2 Essentials is seeing a tremendous change in focus from employers. Where we used to get requests for dress codes and tough and highly restrictive work from home policies, we are now getting requests for policies favoring virtual meetings over in person as companies realize the savings in travel costs coupled with increased job satisfaction from working at home is a win/win. Where the struggle comes in is how to keep the meetings professional, and we are now frequently being asked to recommend policies on appropriate dress, using standardized professional backgrounds, and guidance on keeping the kids and pets out of the meeting. Indeed, some of the more progressive companies are now seeking training and guidance for their workforce on how to split their time between working from home and working in the office to improve work/life balance and increase overall productivity and employee satisfaction.
While the horrible health consequences of the pandemic were well known, no one would have predicted that it would have resulted in a lasting improvement to the work environment for so many.