If the past year has taught us anything, it is that the human species is adaptable. From learning to do our jobs at home, to juggling work and childcare, to socializing over Zoom – we rose to meet the challenge that was 2020. A phrase oft bandied about in the past twelve months was the ‘new normal’, and it would be remiss to assume, now that restrictions are being gradually lifted around the world, that we will slide back into the ‘old normal’. Companies have realized that most jobs, especially traditional white-collar corporate roles, can be done equally (if not more) effectively from home versus the office.
This is due to several reasons. Working from home allows, in most cases, for greater flexibility and a better work life balance. Although one could say there is no work life balance, there is only life. Technology giants in Silicon Valley such as Google have always been lightyears ahead of other industries, normalizing working from home long before a fellow decided that a bat would make a tasty lunch, inadvertently plunging the world into a global pandemic.
So, what is the future of the traditional office? Apple recently announced to its workforce that once social distancing restrictions are fully lifted, employees are encouraged to return to the office 2-3 days a week. Unsurprisingly, this led to a global revolt and Apple has now retracted their policy and is relooking at work location guidance.
Share prices of companies such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and even phone applications such as Houseparty skyrocketed in the past year and show no signs of dipping. This is indicative of the new world we now reside in. It is reasonable to expect less co-location between colleagues, including less corporate travel. ‘Virtual First’ is the approach most FTSE 100 companies are taking, a view that is sure to trickle down to smaller companies over time.
Our future is uncertain, true, but certain trends seem to be universal. One of which is that e-learning, e-working and e-everything is the name of the game. My advice? Forget bitcoin, it’s shares in Tech firms that will make bank. So here’s to increased autonomy, flexible working hours, and being able to dial into a meeting from a beach because in the New Normal, it doesn’t matter where you are, only what you do. As it should be as we make tentatively optimistic strides towards a deliverable focused and infinitely more meritocratic, new world order.