illustration of office scenarios

With the pandemic, the home office concept has become more prevalent. For some companies it has been the first time that it was actually considered. But what will happen, once the pandemic is over. Will work life go back to the traditional office or will it stay at home?

One thing is certain: life before the „New Normal“ cannot be brought back. Hardly any employer will be able to introduce 100% office work after many employees have seen that home office options are possible.

And these options can also be beneficial for businesses. Offices can be smaller and office spaces can be created more flexibly. Travel costs are saved, as are infrastructure costs. This starts with electricity and water consumption. In addition, companies can offer attractive incentives for work at home (for example, co- payment for a private Internet connection).

Is the office an outdated concept?

But is the home office popular enough that it will be necessary across the board and five days a week? A PWC survey of American managers and employees shows that flexible options, rather than a complete change, are preferred.

According to the survey, 87% of respondents consider the office to be an important space for collaboration and team building. Only one in five managers still believe that 100% presence is necessary to maintain the corporate culture. That’s good for employees who want much more flexibility, though there’s no consensus on how many days in the office are now considered necessary.

Opinions differ when it comes to the length of home office options. While management is in favor of at least three office days in 68% of cases, 55% of all employees want three days in the home office.

It is interesting to note that employees who are still in training want more office time in particular. Apparently, companies need to make sure that new employees or employees in training still receive sufficient on-site support or have the right means for supervised learning at home.

Productivity at home

Not all executives are convinced about productivity at home. However, many studies do not address the current special conditions, such as the fact that many employees who work from home also have their kids to care for during school and kindergarten closings.

The survey also reveals that measures to support employees with their additional workload at home are differently perceived by managers and employees.

81% of all managers say that they have successfully introduced supporting measures for childcare in their company. But only 45% of surveyed employees agree. If management differ so much compared to employees, it stands to reason that employees lack the necessary opportunities to communicate their requirements and therefore are not included in decision processes that affect their daily work.

In addition, it should be mentioned that employees who rate their productivity as lower often also note problems with their work-life balance as well as work-related tasks in the virtual space. Flexible time management as well as comprehensive training of the (new) tools for digital collaboration can be a first step to reduce these problems.

The workplace of the future is hybrid

There are already companies that offer hybrid workplaces. This means that more attention is paid to employees‘ individual tasks and preferences. Flexible models are preferred that offer a combination of home office and office space, for example.

For these work models, however, employees and employers must come together to discuss what role the office actually plays or should play in everyday working life and how these roles can be promoted. It’s important that not only employer concepts are realized. Otherwise, the motivation to go to the office will decrease and, as a result, so will production (and attractiveness as an employer).

When it comes to the purpose of an office, management and employees are not in agreement, at least that is the result of the PWC survey.

Management sees the office as a place for:

Employees, meanwhile, see the office as a place for:

  • Collaborating
  • Secure access to tools and documents
  • Meeting clients and colleagues
  • Continuing education and career development

It can therefore be concluded that both management and employers see the office as a meeting place and conducive to collaboration. But corporate culture does not play a role from the employee perspective, while employers do not prioritize the very practical role of access to resources. Both issues are relevant and should be considered critically.

Both additionally could be implemented (in part) digitally, e.g., through secure file sharing and collaboration tools, as well as digital measures to strengthen corporate culture (e.g., virtual company calls, internal networks for sharing, chatting, etc.).

With Microsoft Teams, you can strengthen virtual teamwork, form groups, hold video meetings, conduct private and group chats, and store, share and edit all documents transparently. Learn more on our info page.

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