It seemed to become a totally different world when the coronavirus crisis hit the world. People could spend more time in bed, suffer less commuter stress and a cup of coffee was permanently on their table but as time has passed, more and more people are voicing the wish to return to the office. So what is the new normal in terms of the workplace?
Working from home was a novelty for a large part of the world. In the Netherlands, working completely from home had been a futuristic scenario and during the lockdowns in 2020, almost half of the Dutch population longed to return to their offices but by October 2021 only a third continued to express this desire. In a survey conducted by software platform, Capterra (a platform featuring high-quality reviews to assist software buyers), seeking to find the negative consequences of working from home, half of the respondents complained that they suffered from a ‘burnout’ to a greater or lesser extent albeit without a doctor’s diagnosis.
According to another survey undertaken by the Dutch HR service provider, Visma Raet, among their 1,250 employees, 63% said they wanted to return to the office.
“Everything that makes the work extra fun, such as the chat at the coffee machine, the lunch walk, or the Friday afternoon drink, has disappeared,” commented Marco Winkel, an employee at Visma Raet.
He also complained about having a stressful life working from home,
“Going to the office and back home means a separation in time and space between work and private life. Just like a plane taking off, you need time to get into work mode and after that, you have to stay in the air. That’s how it works with focus. This is necessary to prevent work and private life from merging completely.”
Ulrika Léons, a Swedish-born health psychologist, endorses the problems of unwanted working from home by providing some explanations.
“The overstimulation of the open-plan office has been exchanged for that of working from home, whereby attention must always be divided between the laptop, smartphone, children, the cat, and the noise from neighbors.”
Of the 1,500 public employees in the province of Gelderland, 10% work on the street, such as law enforcement and road maintenance, while almost 90% work at home with less than 1% visiting the office.
“Those who come to the office mainly do so because of the physical work. This minority consists of people who find it difficult to work completely from home, for example, because of a renovation at the neighbors or because they are going through a divorce,” says Rianne Tol, a Genderland-based journalist.
A large group of people would like to go to the office now and then because they miss their colleagues, according to a poll undertaken in the province of Gelderland. The question as to whether they could continue to work from home for another three months scored an average of 7.5 on a scale of 0 to 10.
At ESA Estec in Noordwijk, a research club for aerospace, about 85% of employees now work from home and their productivity and creativity has not suffered according to Lucy van der Tas, Head of Talent Acquisition. But how do you measure that?
“If there is an effect, productivity has increased. We have received very positive feedback from our European industrial partners on ESA’s efforts to minimize the negative impact of COVID-19 on our operations.”
Lead researcher Marleen Bosma of Bouwinvest Real Estate Investors estimates that after the coronavirus crisis between 3 and 7 percent less office space will be needed. McKinsey & Co, a well-known consulting company, estimates that if it is assumed that work can be done remotely without losing productivity, a quarter of the workforce in developed economies could work from home up to five days a week.
“This is four to five times more remote work than before the pandemic and could revolutionize the geography of work as individuals and businesses move from major cities to suburbs and small towns,” notes the company.
However, the same company warns that tasks that can technically be done remotely achieve better results with face-to-face contact.
“Negotiations, critical business decisions, brainstorming sessions, providing sensitive feedback and onboarding new employees are examples of activities that can lose effectiveness if they are done remotely.”
According to the review site, findstack.com, worldwide, 16% of companies rely on 100% remote work. A better work-life balance is the main reason why people choose to work remotely. According to the website, 77% of remote workers say they are more productive when working from home and 85% of managers believe that having teams of remote workers will become the new norm. The three biggest challenges associated with remote work are unplugging after work (22%), loneliness (19%), and communication/collaboration (17%).
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