Has Covid Changed the Traditional Office for Good?

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Posted by: David Garcia

Topics: Recruitment, News/PR

It’s been over a year since the Covid-19 pandemic began, and for many businesses — and people — it’s the biggest challenge they’ve ever had to face.

For many workers fortunate enough to stay healthy and employed during this period of extraordinary hardship, how and where they work has dramatically changed.

According to a recent study by Stanford University, a staggering 42% of American workers are now working from home full-time…

This unprecedented shift to remote work has been disruptive for everyone — including employers, business owners, and Human Resources decision-makers forced to navigate this “new normal” with their teams.

Now that there’s light at the end of the tunnel with Covid-19 vaccines rolling out to ever-increasing numbers of Americans, the possibility of a return to a traditional office environment no longer seems like such a distant possibility…

But do employers and their teams want a return to the pre-Covid status quo?

Or has Covid changed the traditional office for good?

We asked 16 HR decision-makers and business owners from various industries for their insights on what shape the post-pandemic work environment might take...  

Check out their answers below...


David Garcia-1-1David Garcia
ScoutLogic

Covid hasn’t done away with the traditional office, but it has evolved its role.  

The benefits of a truly global talent pool and the reduction in real estate expenses preclude a return to the pre-pandemic normal.  

However, physical office space can still play a critical role in fostering collaboration and training.  

At ScoutLogic, we see our clients starting to reimagine their office designs with space reductions and more collaboration spaces for employees who may visit the office for concentrated assignments requiring in-person collaboration. 

Has your company reduced office space due to Covid?

Most of our employees have worked remotely even prior to Covid, so this pandemic only further confirmed the benefits of the model for ScoutLogic.  

We still see a need for physical office space due to the nature of some of our roles and to facilitate collaboration. But the vast majority of our employees have higher engagement and productivity working remotely.

Has implementing remote work made your team more or less productive?

Our employees love working remotely and are more productive. We measure our output at a researcher level daily, and pandemic productivity has gone up by over 10%.   

Team members have found that the ability to take frequent breaks during the day leaves them more energized and productive when they return to their tasks.

When the danger of the pandemic recedes, will your company acquire/retain office space and return to a traditional communal working environment?

ScoutLogic will continue to work primarily remotely. The benefits are just too great for our employees and, ultimately, our clients.   

Happier and more engaged employees are ultimately what’s best for our business, and working remotely helps to enable that.

If yes, are there any aspects of remote work that your business will retain?

You have to work extra hard on communication skills to stay connected virtually.  

It’s far too easy to hide behind email or Slack. 

We strongly encourage our people to use Zoom so they can see each other, especially when working on challenging topics or socializing.


Kevin ConnerKevin Conner
Broadband Search

We were 100% remote prior to the pandemic, so we were already accustomed to being location independent when everyone else started getting into it due to Covid.

But this doesn't mean we weren't affected. 

It’s been interesting to see how even a workforce theoretically familiar with a remote working environment has struggled due to several factors. 

Having whole families confined together at home, stress, and uncertainty have all impacted how our staff has operated during the pandemic.

Motivation took a hit, resulting in a slight decline in productivity. 

I feel that many companies looking at remote work as an ongoing option vs. going back to the office need to consider how Covid has affected employee morale and motivation. 

The stress of the pandemic hasn't been conducive to an accurate representation of how great remote work can be. 

Keep in mind that once that stress subsides and things start going back to normal, remote work could still really benefit your company.


Heinrich LongHeinrich Long
Restore Privacy

Covid has killed our office space, and we aren't going back anytime soon. 

My company has been leasing out a small office space for a few years now, and the pandemic offered a unique incentive to go fully remote.

I only have six full-time employees, and all of us are successfully working remotely. 

We use the cloud to store, share, and collaborate online while maintaining effective communication among staff members. Using Zoom and instant messaging apps, my employees and I consider ourselves more productive than we have ever been in the office.

Our team is now in a place where we don't want to return to the office, and we experience more success at our homes. 

I get to spend more time with my family and don't have to worry about a nasty commute. 

However, I always take employee feedback seriously. If one day my team decides they want to return to a traditional office environment, I will hear them out and act accordingly.


Domantas-GudeliauskasDomantas Gudeliauskas
Zyro

We encouraged all of our employees to work from home during the pandemic and use the office only if they were genuinely unable to accommodate a home office. 

We facilitated this by allowing employees to borrow tables, office chairs, monitors, etc., to help them settle comfortably into a work-from-home environment.

Thanks to being proactive in helping team members go remote, our productivity was in no way impacted by the Covid pandemic. 

With this in mind, we have decided to allow employees to work remotely on a permanent basis if they prefer — even after the pandemic subsides. 

All the office space that could free up will give us more room to expand and accommodate employees who prefer a traditional office environment.


Rolf Bax-1Rolf Bax
Resume.io

Prior to the pandemic, we rented an open-floor shared working space for our on-site employees, and we were worried that once everyone went remote, productivity would suffer.

This hasn’t turned out to be the case, primarily because we’ve been attentive to productivity pitfalls like employee burnout and issues surrounding mental health. 

Looking at our quarter-over-quarter results from last year, productivity actually improved since going fully remote.

Once widespread vaccination is in place, we will likely return to the same arrangement we had before the pandemic

A significant number of employees will continue to work fully remote. Management and team leaders will return to our physical workspace. 

Our employees have enjoyed the remote experience, but I know many miss the camaraderie and solidarity of working on-site — and it’s ideal for us to have all of our leaders and decision-makers in the same building.


Abby HermanAbby Herman
Snap Agency

There's no need to mention how challenging 2020/21 has been for many of us. 

For those who like working from home — and have no other distractions during their workday — the shift to remote work may have been a blessing. 

However, many people don't enjoy working at home when they also need to take care of their family and kids doing distance learning all under the same roof. 

Once everything goes back to normal — or whatever “normal” ends up being — we would very much like to continue with our office space. 

Many team members enjoy and miss human interaction in the workplace. Some have been struggling with creativity not flowing as easily in a work-from-home environment. 

While some people enjoy working in their PJs with no makeup, others have a hard time focusing on the task at hand and find themselves doom scrolling while looking for “inspiration.” 

But it's still early to say when and how our return to a traditional office environment will take place. It mostly depends on everyone's comfort level with returning to a communal workspace. 

If we can, we’d certainly prefer to keep our existing office space or find new ways to meet in person and collaborate — even if it's more infrequent.


Eric HolguinEric Holguin
Herrman & Herrman PLC

Here at the law offices of Herrman and Herrman PLLC, we have not reduced our office space but have implemented a hybrid office approach for select teams. 

To maintain the same level of productivity within our teams, we have set Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure each remote team member's efficiency. 

Our teams have consistently achieved and exceeded KPIs set during this time. 

Despite this success with remote work, our law firm currently intends to return to a regular office setting post Covid-19. 

But this may change before Covid-19 is no longer present in our community.


Jason AkatiffJason Akatiff
Boundery

One of the biggest business lessons from this past year is the change of outlook on remote work. 

If I had to predict the future of traditional workspaces based on my own business, I personally don't intend to get rid of office spaces altogether. 

I value in-person collaboration and the cultural benefits that having an office provides too much. 

Yet, I'm looking into downsizing our office space — offering employees the option of having space if they need it but also staying flexible if they choose to continue working from home.

I like the idea of collaborative office rooms, where teams can meet to work together or be around each other. 

My business hasn't suffered from temporarily closing our offices, and my employees have repeatedly shown higher productivity levels and overall happiness while working remotely. 

I would be foolish not to take this into account when implementing changes to our work environment in the future.


Eric WuEric Wu
Gainful

In 2021, I predict significant changes to the traditional office environment we all knew prior to the pandemic. 

We’re coming up on 12 months of remote work as a result of Covid-19 regulations. Most companies have invested time and resources into developing new systems of communication and collaboration to adapt to the remote workplace. 

I predict that once it’s safe to return to offices, most companies won't see a need for it. 

From personal experience, I haven't seen a significant decline in productivity or efficiency from my employees since going remote. 

Eventually, I see companies moving to a hybrid solution model of providing the option of offices with a combination of remote work. 

While our team has proven that we're able to make incredible progress and work effectively from home, I don't anticipate that we'll ever see a total disappearance of in-person workplace culture. 

Call me old school, but I’m still a firm believer in the importance of in-person collaboration. 

I've also heard from our team that people feel cooped up after many months at home. Many look forward to coming into the office at least a few days per week — even before a vaccine is widely available — provided we take all necessary safety precautions. 

With anonymous feedback from our team, we're instituting a Gainful-specific system of health & safety procedures. 

We've invested in surgical-grade air purifiers for our office, touchless thermometers, hand sanitizer stations, as well as mandatory masking, physical distancing, and cleaning protocols. 

All this, and we'll still only be letting a handful of people into the office using a digital sign-in sheet that’s available to the entire company. 

However, it's clear that we won't be going back to a full, 5-day, fully in-person workday for many months. And there's a good chance we'll never truly return to that model.


Brandon MonaghanBrandon Monaghan
Miracle Brand

Having myself and my team work from our homes over the last few months due to Covid-19 has been an eye-opener for me as a business owner. 

I learned that my employees are much more efficient while working from home. 

I’ve noticed an increase in overall productivity and sales. 

I've made time to communicate more directly with my team on an individual basis since we don't get to see each other in the office and speak as frequently as we did before the pandemic. 

My team members have expressed how much they enjoy working from the comfort of their own homes and would prefer to continue working remotely past the pandemic. 

This situation has been a huge learning curve for all of us, and I am taking on the challenge of implementing changes to better suit our needs in the future. I intend on continuing to listen and make significant improvements to the work-life balance of my employees. 

As of right now, I am looking to reopen offices in a smaller capacity when it is safe to do so and when my employees are comfortable with returning. 

As a business owner, I have to value my employee’s opinions and concerns when it comes to returning to an office space. 

My goal is to make everyone as happy as possible, so I’ve developed a hybrid solution of working from home combined with optional office spaces. 

Having both options available will give employees the ability to choose what suits their needs most for that specific day, week, or month. 

This solution also solves the difficulties of team collaboration while working remotely.


John PinedoJohn Pinedo
FreedomBoundBusiness

Has your company reduced office space due to Covid?

Our digital marketing agency actually increased office space versus reducing it during the pandemic. We anticipated growth and felt that business owners would feel more secure launching digital marketing campaigns as we're turning the corner on the pandemic soon.

Has implementing remote work made your team more or less productive?

We're not fully remote and were a hybrid remote/office agency before the pandemic, so we're used to being productive with or without an office.

I will say, though, that nothing beats the office team feel. I personally think it's a productivity booster that Zoom meetings can’t match and never will.

When the danger of the pandemic recedes, will your company acquire/retain office space and return to a traditional communal working environment?

When the pandemic recedes, we'll continue to work in the traditional office environment as it didn't change much for us.

In fact, for prospect and client meetings during the pandemic, we've found that business owners prefer in-person meetings over Zoom 99.9% of the time.

If so, are there any aspects of remote work that your business will retain?

Not necessarily. Our team's workflow follows the Agile project management approach on Trello, and it's worked fine whether all team members work in the office or remotely.


Rick Patterson-1Rick Patterson
Poolonomics

Because of the pandemic — and one of our employees contracting Covid-19 in its early days — we chose to convert our workforce to 100% remote status. 

The challenges that followed were not easily overcome. 

We are a pool/spa service company with six technicians, four administrative staff, and two managers. 

We assumed that since we’re a small business, the transition wouldn't be too difficult. Our service team has been doing great, and this is in part because pre-pandemic, our technicians would show up at the office in the morning to wait for their jobs for the day and then be sent out accordingly. 

Working remotely, though, they were able to reduce the drive time to and from the office every day and could leave straight from their homes to their job-sites. 

This reduced wait time saved the company money by reducing paid downtime to our service staff. When the dangers of the pandemic recede, we plan to continue to allow our service team to operate in this fashion.

The biggest issue with productivity has been with the administrative staff.  Typically, their hours are 7 am to 5 pm in the office, and communication between the admin departments and management is paramount. 

Management has struggled to conduct their job efficiently with the lack of physical human-to-human interaction. Invoicing productivity has decreased, and it’s been tough to nail down where the problem lies. 

While we’re still staying above water, we are beginning to implement a plan to bring our entire administrative team back into the office as the pandemic slows.

Has Covid killed our office culture? While we’ve severed ties to maintaining a full workforce in the office, our work culture hasn’t died. 

We plan to use what we have learned from the remote experience and make our in-office experience more efficient than ever.

Manny VettiManny Vetti
Back Taxes Help

When the pandemic first hit, I thought we were going to return to normal after a couple of weeks! 

When those weeks turned into months, I knew I had to make some significant changes if I wanted the company to stay afloat. 

I didn't see the point in paying rent for an empty office, so I decided to close the office for good. 

I thought working remotely would make the team less productive since everyone's basically on their own, but to my surprise, we maintained the same level of productivity.

I guess that's what happens when you work as a team to get through rough patches together. 

I understood that my employees were already dealing with additional stress at home, so I made sure I gave everyone enough time to do what they needed to. 

When the danger from Covid recedes, I think I'll open up a communal office again. As nice as it is working from home, I know our company can perform better in a physical space surrounded by each other's ideas. 

One thing I really enjoyed working from home was random naps. 

I was surprised by how much a power nap helped me recharge and contributed to my productivity. So I intend to have a dedicated “nap room” in the office for anyone who needs that extra rest.


Blake BobitBlake Bobit
SolutionScout

Since the coming of the pandemic, we’ve shifted to remote work but haven’t closed our office doors permanently.

One benefit of this shift is that it's given us much-needed insights into how so many things can be done even more productively when working remotely.

Once things start going back to normal, we’ll definitely consider going back to the office, at least part-time. But remote work will remain an essential part of our HR practices going forward.


Darrell RosensteinDarrell Rosenstein
The Rosenstein Group

Has your company reduced office space due to Covid?

I'm in a unique position where I started my company during the pandemic, so I launched it knowing I'd be operating virtually at first — although I admit I didn't anticipate remote work lasting as long as it has.

Has implementing remote work made your team more or less productive?

Since we didn't exist pre-pandemic, it's difficult to compare, but I've been pleased with our productivity levels compared to my experiences in past firms.

When the danger of the pandemic recedes, will your company acquire/retain office space and return to a traditional communal working environment?

A hybrid work environment seems like the most viable approach for us to take. 

There are benefits of having a physical office space where team members can collaborate and meet face-to-face with clients. 

In my mind, those benefits are worth the extra expense of maintaining an office, even if a significant percentage of your workforce is remote.

If so, are there any aspects of remote work that your business will retain?

Absolutely!

Having a solid framework for employees to work remotely is very beneficial for a recruiting company. It gives you the potential to expand your talent pool into new geographical areas, giving you more options to find the best fit to fill available positions. 

The shift to remote work also prompted us to explore more cloud-based information systems and utilize more features of our Applicant Tracking System (ATS). We'll certainly continue to use those long after in-office work is feasible.


Jenny MoreheadJenny Morehead
FlexHR

We’re doing some really innovative things with our team at Flex HR in light of the changes from Covid. 

Before Covid, our team worked 40 hours per week in the office... 

After Covid, when we can safely return to the office, we’ll most likely require one day in the office per week, one day recommended in the office per week, and the rest from home. This schedule gives our employees options as long as they continue to perform. 

We feel that this will be the right combination between developing our team and culture and giving people more work/life balance.

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