Working from home might sound like a dream to many. Just think: being able to work in your pyjamas, the convenience of a one-minute commute, the opportunity to spend more time with your loved ones… what’s not to like?
A LinkedIn survey conducted in October 2019 showed “82% of workers wished to work from home at least part of the time”.
However, the picture of working from home might not be as rosy for all. The lack of a proper workspace, increased distractions, and reduced productivity are all common problems, on top of decreased mental stimulation from the lack of human interaction.
But whatever it is, with no visible end to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it seems as if the work-from-home mantra is indefinitely here to stay, or at least for the foreseeable future. Some companies have even moved to embrace this; tech giants like Google and Twitter have announced that their employees will work from home until 2021 — with the latter even allowing their employees to “work from home forever”, if they wish.
So, how have companies and employees adapted to deal with this phenomenon?
In an interesting twist of events, hotels are now starting to offer ‘work-from-hotel’ packages, where you can choose between full-day or monthly passes. At Furama RiverFront, for example, the full-day pass will get you high-speed Wi-fi access, a parking coupon, free-flow non-alcoholic drinks, $10 dining credits, access to meeting spaces and more — all for just $15!
Some companies started to rent co-working spaces, which offer the use of private offices, desks and meeting spaces. Many co-working spaces have jumped on this bandwagon, and revamped their offerings to cater for what businesses need during this time. Guoco Midtown, for example, has moved away from the traditional fixed-lease agreement to offer flexible and adaptable spaces. Some even take it a step further — members of ClubCo are even able to rent a work desk and ergonomic chair for home use!
Indeed, as stated by Kenny Alegbe, CEO and Co-Founder of HomeHero, “it doesn’t make sense to return to a full office”, with the company making “provisions for our [their] team to work together in person as needed at a global workspace”.
Flexible work arrangements
Companies have also adopted measures such as asking their employees to go to the office in split teams. Ence Marketing Group, for example, allows a partial work-from-home arrangement for its team, with employees only coming into the office when the use of certain specialised equipment is required.
In addition, many offices have taken to ensuring clean and safe workplaces for all. Aptly put by Abel Ariza, Sodexo’s Segment Director of Corporate Services for Singapore and Vietnam, and Country President for Korea, “right now, offices will need to adjust the workplaces they have today with physical distancing, such as moving and deactivating desks and chairs, adding barriers, converting small meeting rooms into private offices and enhancing safety and cleaning measures.”. Virtual interaction tools also come into play, with offices using these to imitate physical and social interaction.
Companies have also resorted to getting creative in any way they can — Derek Mackenzie, Managing Director for DWP Singapore, muses about rearranging the carpet tiles to demarcate prohibited areas, with Stephen Lyon, Regional Director and Head of Office for Singapore at M Moser Associates, resorting to using plants to segregate spaces.
A ‘work vacation’ rental
Around the world, the demand for vacation rentals has also been surging as more people are on the lookout for spaces where they can get all their work done and feel like they’re on vacation at the same time. According to VacationRenter, factors like adequate desk space, high-speed wi-fi and good lighting are among factors that are taken into consideration when choosing a work-vacation rental.
Living at work?
However, it looks like not all companies agree with the act of working from home. For instance, Andrew Lynch, COO of co-working hub provider Huckletree, sees working from home to be more like “living at work”!
For larger countries such as the United States, this also poses a threat for job hunters; instead of simply competing with those within commuting distance, they now face fierce competition from virtually anyone who has a stable Internet connection. Some companies also discourage employees moving to less-costly cities to reduce their overall expenses — VMware, for example, has announced that work-from-home employees will have to accept a pay cut should they move out of Silicon Valley. Other companies like Facebook are also looking to adopt similar pay policies for fully remote work arrangements.
Reinventing the work space
With ‘working from home’ here to stay, it’s crucial for both employers and employees alike to adapt the situation for their advantage. Space Matrix, a corporate interior design firm, even took it up a notch by creating a Workplace Reboot programme, where it aims to help existing offices improve their layouts to incorporate phased entry, good hygiene practices, and social distancing.
So perhaps, the most pertinent question is not how to phase offices out completely, but how to reinvent the modern office space to harmoniously co-exist with the working-from-home model. What we have now isn’t perfect but with time, there’s no doubt that the world will find a way!