Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the North
Jamie Durham
IT Correspondent
9:38 AM 9th June 2020

The Future Of The Workplace

Has the workplace changed forever? During the COVID-19 pandemic, enforced remote working has given the world time for thought and left us all wondering if there is a better way of going about our daily lives moving forward.

A Skype video conference. Image by Jagrit Parajuli
A Skype video conference. Image by Jagrit Parajuli
In most countries, lockdown was introduced to protect health services from being overwhelmed, and the result has completely changed the way we look at the daily commute – as well as some employers pondering if the overhead cost of a commercial premises is really a necessity.

Zoom – the online meeting platform – has seen a whopping 100% increase in its share price from February to June, while a large portion of the rest of the market has floundered under the weight of the inevitable downturn in GDP (gross domestic product), with further losses expected by most on Wall Street. This is further evidence that there has been a monumental shift in attitudes towards travel, and it appears some are beginning to question if it is now a dated concept.

The environmental impact of lockdown is clear for everyone to see – traffic on UK roads seems more akin to 1980’s population levels. The decrease is so significant that the highways industry is booming, and schemes of work are being rushed into reality to take advantage of the lack of disruption projects will cause.

But is this shift what the modern workforce desires? At some point in the future when the balance of the employment market returns to be led by the employee, business culture will be as critical to potential staff as it was prior to the pandemic. Figures from a Yorkshire-based trend intelligence agency suggest we may be in for a rude awakening if anyone is expecting anything but a swift ‘return to the norm’ – with only 47% of people who have been able to work from home stating they would like to continue doing so on a full-time basis. In addition, 30% of the total remote workers were home-based salespeople and freelancers already, which is only a 17% increase overall. Of the remaining 53%, 27% want the option to work remotely 2-3 days a week and 18% want to go back full time.

There appears to be some ingredients missing for this to become a permanent way of life for everyone though. For some, they are missing the structure of going to the office, and for others it is the in-person contact and socialising with other humans that they are craving.

History tells us that after any significant global catastrophe, technology advances exponentially, and I believe the COVID-19 pandemic will be no different. The interesting possibility though, is that the advances that occur from the challenges faced in this pandemic, may simply align with the urgent climate crisis unfolding around us.

Advances in AI carers, robotic surgeons and virtual reality are just a few of examples of what will revolutionise how we reduce the need for travel, while satisfying basic human requirements. The meteoric rise of Zoom is just the beginning – everything has changed and there is no going back. It may just take a little longer to get everyone to our new destination.