6 lessons the world has learned about the home office after almost a year of pandemic

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SÃO PAULO – If the trend to reduce the sizes – and the need – of physical offices was already beginning to be observed in the job market, with the adoption of the home office in some companies, albeit in a limited way, with the pandemic the movement was intensified in most companies. And it showed that it is possible, for countless professionals and sectors, to work permanently at home.

Around the world, workers, bosses, owners and governments are trying to find out if the office is really obsolete and which of the changes caused by Covid-19 in the corporate environment are transient or permanent.

An article in the English magazine “The Economist“, Tries to answer these questions by showing some of the main conclusions that the world can already draw after almost a year of pandemic and the adoption of the home office on a large scale. THE InfoMoney compiled six of them below. Check out.

1) Lack of experience and costs prevented the home office before

According to the British publication, Brent Neiman, a professor at the University of Chicago, suggests three factors that hindered the growth of remote work before. The first concerns communication: bosses simply did not know whether being physically in an office was essential or not, and the pandemic allowed them to discover this in practice.

The second is related to a fear about the company’s image. Many companies did not consider adopting remote work because they would be alone in this movement and thought that suppliers, customers and even employees could be surprised by the decision. The pandemic, however, caused a massive migration, preventing people from looking suspiciously at the companies that did it.

The third factor has to do with investment. The high costs associated with switching to remote work may have deterred companies from trying it out. These expenses would involve not only the expenses of companies, with the supply of laptops and other work materials, but also of families that would need to move to larger spaces.

However, with the pandemic, most companies may have realized that this cost may be much less than the rental of a commercial building and the physical preparation of a space, for example.

2) Commercial properties will have to be redesigned

One of the points raised by the article is that, on the one hand, a large part of the companies noticed productivity gains in remote work, on the other hand, the end of the dependence on physical spaces can cause a giant negative impact in some sectors and what has been more hit by this change is real estate.

Commercial buildings that are unoccupied can remain closed for a long time, especially if large cities begin to reorganize to assimilate less demand for commercial offices. Investors consulted by “The Economist”Expect a reduction of at least 10% in office occupation in major global cities.

With typical corporate rent lasting at least half a decade, a dramatic shift in occupancy of office buildings may take time to happen, but recent moves may start a downturn in the use of commercial offices, which is likely to continue for decades.

As they reshape their cultures, companies will need to reshape the functions of their properties.

“The city centers must change. For a century, they were dominated by towers filled with swivel chairs and tons of paper. Now, complex urban planning rules will need a systematic review to allow buildings and districts to be rebuilt for new uses, including more apartments, a focus on well-being and fewer commercial buildings, ”says an excerpt from the report.

3) Some companies have adopted the home office forever

While some companies seem to embrace the changes that the pandemic has brought, others are reluctant and seek to keep their work dynamics minimally similar to what they had before, in an attempt to return to “normal”.

Bloomberg, the news agency on the economy and financial markets, for example, is financially encouraging its employees to return to face-to-face work in London. The company has established a stipend of £ 55 (R $ 374) per day for those who, even though they may remain at home working, return to work in the office.

The social network Pinterest, is redoing rental contracts and paying a fine of US $ 90 million to cancel a lease and reduce the physical spaces they occupy, seeking, according to the company itself, to create “a“ more distributed workforce ”.

Opinions about this return to face-to-face work diverge even among technology companies that, traditionally, are more flexible in their work dynamics. Jack Dorsey, Twitter CEO, says the company’s team can work from home “forever”, but Reed Hastings, the founder of Netflix, says that working from home is “a pure negative”.

“This in itself does not mean the end of the non-home office or the systematic adoption of the home office. This means that there is an ongoing debate ”, ponders the publication.

In a recent report, the InfoMoney reported how the face-to-face return has been in some companies in Brazil.

4) Labor laws will have to adapt

As the workspace and much of the relationship between employee, employer and service has changed significantly, new labor laws will be needed to define the rights and duties of employees who now use their home as a work space.

As well as the rise of the freelancers it generated questions and lawsuits about what it means to be an employee or self-employed person, the popularity of remote work pushes for changes in laws that were built around the assumption that people would work in an office.

Therefore, numerous questions will have to be addressed. How, for example, who should pay for the cost of housework? How will layoffs be carried out? How will hours worked be counted? How to monitor contractual working time in a world where nobody physically observes anyone? And to what extent can companies monitor workers at home?

5) Remote work requires more powerful technology

Working from home more often will also require the use of new hardware and the disappearance of others. Today, many companies host large data centers, but these have proven to be less efficient as more people work from home.

Goldman Sachs Bank estimates that investment in traditional data infrastructure will fall 3% per year between 2019 and 2025. On the other hand, companies tend to spend more on technology that allows workers to replicate the experience of being in the same physical space.

Some technology experts estimate that, within five years, people will be able to put on a VR headset (virtual reality, in English) and dive into a virtual office.

6) People work harder, but happier

As the “The Economist”, working from home can really make people happier An article published in 2017 in the American Economic Review, an academic journal on economics, found that workers were willing to accept an 8% cut in pay for working from home, suggesting that their non-monetary benefits continue.

Another study by Princeton University found that commuting was one of the most unpleasant activities that people regularly do in their work routines.

A survey by the UK’s Office of National Statistics found that “daily commuters on the subway have less satisfaction with life, lower levels of happiness and greater anxiety, on average, than those who do not work”.

Another study from the University of Montreal, Canada, found a direct relationship between commuting to work and developing problems such as burnout, depressive psychic disorder, preceded by intense physical and mental exhaustion.

Increasing the happiness of working from home can, in turn, make workers more productive. However, in the current circumstances, however, it is difficult to be sure whether work at home or in the office is more efficient, since it is difficult to compare the different realities that employees have within their own homes.

Many people, mainly women, had to reconcile remote work with domestic chores while taking care of children who would normally be at school, for example.

A Stanford University study shows, for example, that people who are working remotely increased their daily workload by an average of 50 minutes.

With the resumption of face-to-face work still in its infancy in much of the world and with the countless questions raised in this period of forced home office, it is still somewhat uncertain to know what the office of the future will be like or if there will be so many offices.

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