Local business experts suggest that remote work might become the new normal for many in the post-pandemic world.
Working from home has been gaining momentum for years, but the COVID-19 situation has accelerated the trend by forcing thousands of Metro Vancouver residents to stay home.
This has called into question what going back to work will look like as B.C. considers relaxing some restrictions implemented to combat the virus.
But local experts think that the workplace will never look the same again.
“For a lot of companies, the period is proving that working from home can be productive and successful. It might not be the entire operation working from home. Still, flexible remote work is going to be more common,” said Matt Pitcairn, CEO and president of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce.
Furthermore, some employers might realize home isn’t always a place of less efficiency - work productivity doesn’t go down when employees work from home, according to Kwantlen Polytechnic University business professor Guoren Zhang.
“Many employers will acknowledge that working remotely can be efficient, or in some situations, even better.”
Zhang noted the pandemic has also changed some people’s mindset, those trying hard to adapt to the idea.
“People used to think they would go back to business as usual after the crisis. But the pandemic might last longer than what we expected and employees are slowly getting used to the idea.”
The new working model will be fully online or a combination of both online and brick-and-mortar business. Those changes will have a negative impact on commercial real estate, according to Zhang.
“Meanwhile, the latest technologies, such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality and online meeting platforms, will help people to facilitate this transition,” said Zhang.
The necessity of working from home also forces employers and employees to rely on digital apps as their new equipment to stay connected.
Pitcairn has a similar experience using remote tools to ensure colleagues keep in touch with each other.
“Virtual meetings are definitely something many workplaces have become more comfortable with,” said Pitcairn. “It also seems that kids running around in the background of these virtual meetings has become more acceptable.”
However, working from home all the time might not be the perfect option for everyone; some still prefer to return to the office. Employers will probably need to alter their office space or implement new measures for people to feel safe.
“As we look towards going back to work, there are a few things that all employers are going to be paying attention to: maintaining a high level of cleaning, and expectations of hygienic practices; ensuring that there are acceptable levels of physical distancing in the workplace; and robust illness policies that allow and encourage staff to stay home when they are ill.
“Better work-from-home capacities will help with the latter in many workplaces,” said Pitcairn.
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