The future of remote working
The past year has seen much upheaval in the workplace and has been strange for all, but especially challenging for some employees. For those of us lucky enough to have the opportunity, our homes have become our offices. We have converted spare rooms, dining tables, bedrooms and sheds into our workspaces and sometimes even into classrooms.
We have spent hours on Teams and Zoom, dealt with barking dogs, screaming babies and endless doorbells! We have become more relaxed and informal, finding innovative and creative ways to deliver products and services to grow our businesses. We have also spent more time with our families and less time commuting, bringing a new and welcome work-life balance and unlocking social and financial benefits. Businesses have saved substantial costs on property maintenance, leasing and travel. The planet has also benefited from the substantial reduction in aviation-based CO2 emissions (estimated at around -60%). On the other hand, we have missed our colleagues and struggled with isolation as well as coped with specific challenges such as remote recruiting and onboarding of staff which has proven particularly difficult.
With the global vaccination programme rolling out at a pace and the slow easing of lockdown, what will be the future of remote working? In 2021 it’s a question all CEOs and HR Teams will be grappling with because this new way of working is not without downsides.
At corporate level, for every Company saving cost on building leases, there is a Commercial property firm which has seen a collapse in its revenues, a transport system on life support due to lack of commuters and the supporting business ecosystem hit hard. The sudden increase of people working from home is visibly changing the face and soul of the cities, especially the large ones. Canary Wharf is a microcosm that reflects a wider economic problem for large cities.
According to TFL (Transport for London), on the last working day of Feb 2021, just 19,282 passengers passed through Canary Wharf station, down from 110,609 on the same day last year. That’s 90,000 staff not travelling on the tube, not occupying offices, not buying sandwiches, visiting local gyms, having drinks after work etc.
The recent Global Work from Home survey found that only 19% of US workers wanted to go back to the office permanently. Survey after survey of employees shows that most staff would like to continue to work within a hybrid, flexible model, where they enjoy the best of both worlds. 2 days at home, 3 days in the office with hub spaces for meetings, collaboration, client contact and greener, more pleasant workspaces. Feedback from within Sun Strategy follows the same pattern. Put simply, the flexible working genie is out of the bottle and it’s not going back anytime soon!
The rise of Smart Cities will facilitate this change, and enable smaller suburban centres to grow, probably at the expense of the larger metropolises, while giving people more choice and flexibility about where they live, work and socialise. People will choose where they want to live based much more on quality of life, rather than close proximity to their place of work. This is great news for employers, as they have a wider talent pool to choose from and are able to offer their staff a more positive work-life balance. December 2020 saw record numbers of buyers moving out of London into suburbs and the country, and they are moving further; on average, they are moving 10 miles further than in 2019, driven by employers offering more flexible working due to Covid.
Late last year, all the major Tech companies announced they would allow flexible working for their staff permanently, while, paradoxically, continuing to plan large scale work / living / leisure hubs in the major towns of Silicon Valley. Crucially, these spaces will be very different to the large-scale out-of-town campus style of workplace we are used to seeing. For example, the city of San Jose has recently given the go-ahead to Google for a large-scale tech hub in its downtown area, incorporating flexible working hub spec, living accommodation, leisure and transit links. In 2020 alone, Facebook grew its headcount by 13,000 and Alphabet by 16,000, reflecting the growth in demand for tech solutions during the Pandemic. And it’s not just big Tech, HSBC, JP Morgan, Barclays, City Law firms to name a few are all moving more and more staff to remote working, and reducing their need for traditional office space.
It seems flexible working is here to stay. The large corporate HQ seems to be a thing of the past, but the office itself isn't dead; it’s evolving into regional and central hubs where teams will meet clients and colleagues to collaborate and learn. Our workspaces will be smaller, greener, and more pleasant environments to work in, designed to nurture our creativity and innovation. They will be located in smaller, suburban towns and cities, which will help to level-up the economy, and reduce our reliance on large, metropolitan areas for jobs and growth. As a girl from Leicester, who had to leave for London to pursue her career, it sounds pretty good to me.
About Sun Strategy
The way we are working is changing in step with societal change and there are still many unknowns but one thing is for certain; tech underpins this revolution.
Sun Strategy is an holistic end to end technology led business designed for a new digital environment. By combining packaging and retail expertise with strong technology know-how, we are able to develop systems that don’t only problem solve, but drive efficiencies for customers, constantly evolving to the changing landscape of the market.
Our platforms deliver live and accurate data to our client’s personalised dashboards; our tech is a game-changer pioneering the right choices for our clients, consumers and the planet.
About the author
Lisa Skinner - Account Director
Lisa has over 20 years’ experience in the industry, working with some of the world’s largest Brands & Retailers, including Hershey, Kraft, P&G, GSK, Nestle, Heinz, Britvic, Twinings & Kingfisher. She has managed packaging artwork & design operations in both the UK and the USA & Canada, and more recently, senior Client relationships & onsite Client Management teams.
What’s your experience? Join the conversation on LinkedIn.