Vaccines, tiers, new strains… the truth is, no one knows what 2021 holds. What we can expect from the workplace is that those who can work from home will continue to do so in 2021.
Even jobs that weren’t previously considered possible to carry out remotely have been moved online. Estate agents can sell properties without their buyers needing to set foot in the building they’re about to buy. TV presenters can run entire shows from their own homes. GPs can prescribe us medicines without us needing to go to their surgeries.
It’s a brave new tech-enabled world. It’s not perfect, just as the old workplace wasn’t, but we’re making it work. Here’s what to expect from the workplace in 2021…
Ex-office workers in the UK are rushing out of large cities to suburbs and beyond. We want larger homes for our home offices, with many taking advantage of the UK government’s break on stamp duty before April. Remote working has been made possible by the amazing technology we already had in place. Office workers may complain of Zoom fatigue. But teleconference tools such as Zoom or GoToMeeting have allowed us to carry on speaking to our colleagues almost as normal. Google Suite, Salesforce and other cloud products have meant that we can work from anywhere. With the addition of Slack and other collaboration tools, we can even keep up the office banter.
So what will happen to offices?
Sadiq Khan recently asked the question, “Are there going to be satellite-type offices in outer London because people may not want to work from home but in a co-working space in zone 5 or zone 4?” Co-working spaces may have been hit hard by the pandemic but they will return. They allow for flexibility in a world full of changing rules. They are cleaned professionally and can ensure that no employees will get sick from going to work.
Additionally, although London may not be as busy as it used to be, it’s still the UK’s biggest international hub. With employees moving out of the city or even country, companies will still need a central location where their employees can meet in person. We’ll need to see our customers again too. The strong bonds we build tend to be stronger after meeting in person, so the need for offices in central London will not disappear next year.
Some companies are still holding on to their real estate in London too. Salesforce is one of these companies. That may have contributed to the speed with which they rolled out Work.com over the summer. It’s an app that lets employees book a space at the office and also track and trace during the pandemic. Additionally, with video fast becoming the most popular marketing tactic there is, office space can double-up as a studio for filming. And it serves as storage for all the swag needed to be sent to employees and customers alike, along with spare office equipment.
Construction – surely that can’t be done online?
One job many people think can’t be done online is construction. But for all those working in digital construction, they’ll hope that this is the final push we needed to get construction online too. The industry has long been lagging behind when it comes to digitalisation. Building Information Modelling (BIM) is now being taken up for most major new building and infrastructure projects in the UK. The more effort companies spend on planning construction projects, the better quality we’ll see when we go to site. Construction projects can be designed to reduce the number of people needed on site at the same time. Technology is improving on site too, with paper forms looking like they’ll be a thing of the past. Efficiency gains were the original reason for digitalising the industry, but in 2021 we’ll see faster change to help workers avoid COVID-19.
When disaster strikes, innovation strikes back
The sandwich shop was another casualty of workers moving out of the city. But new hubs are forming outside of city centres, closer to where people live – and now work. The hospitality industry in general has had to transform rapidly to serve people in new locations. Many establishments survived or even thrived depending on their digital presence. Most UK restaurants had to close over the normally busy Christmas season, but even fine dining has pivoted to takeaway. Establishments are constantly thinking of new ways to keep enjoying food and drink safely.
The way we have adapted so quickly to a life of avoiding physical contact is impressive. Customer-centricity is more important to us than ever (see our previous blog on this topic) – and employee-centricity too. We miss people, so what better way to make up for our loss, than by making people happy? We can certainly expect the workplace in 2021 to look different, and in many cases, better.