The coronavirus pandemic has redefined offices and forced various business establishments to shift their workforce to remote working. While the transition may have meant different things to different people and establishments, given the present situation this might just be the future of work. According to Statistics Canada, 40 per cent of Canada’s workers were working from home during the pandemic lockdown, in comparison to less than 10 per cent in 2018 who had the option to work a day or two a week from home.
So, what does it mean for the retail industry? Well, a lot. This shift has redefined ‘office wear’ with formal wear moving toward redundancy and lounge wear gaining ground. Work shoes are forlornly accumulating dust in the corners of shoe racks, while slipper sales doubled.
With people spending more time at home, they are concentrating on maintenance and improvements to their surroundings, hence home improvement chains have seen an upward trend in their sales. As per the RBC COVID Consumer Spending Tracker the consumer spending on household items is abut 20 per cent higher than last year’s level, with an increase in do-it-yourself construction stores, furniture, and appliances. While moving their operations online, many businesses are saving on factors like rent, equipment, and supplies.
As different members of the team work remotely, communication and streamlining of work priorities can become a challenge. As a solution, various tech companies have come up with various innovative products to ensure that team member can smoothly share significant documents and work modules with each other and team leaders can undertake scrutiny of their team’s work without disruption or micromanagement.
For employers, this setup offers another option of getting the opportunity to hire talent from across the world, while for employees a chance to get their dream jobs without bothering about logistic requirements. But it also means more competition, that too on the global level.
With a smaller number of people travelling to offices, public transport and ride hailing companies like Uber and Lyft have seen cratered ridership, which ultimately leading to less traffic on roads, less pollution and better urban environments. To counter the impact that the pandemic had on these companies, Uber reduced nearly 14 per cent of its workforce, implemented a hiring freeze, and its CEO Dara Khosrowshahi will gave up his base salary through 2020. Similarly, Lyft reduced nearly 17 per cent of its workforce.
Not just for industries, remote working has redefined life for employees as well. The pandemic has brought significant shifts in our lifestyles, both at home and at work. The focus has now shifted from ‘where’ to work to ‘how’ to work.
With no pressure of beating rush hour traffic or having to worrying about work commute, people have more time to devote to their work and family. Work from home has opened numerous options for people with disabilities, working parents with young children or those with caregiving responsibilities. Working professionals are not bound to stay in a particular city for work opportunities. People can stay in cottages or summer homes and still be able to work. The concepts of ‘work productivity’ and ‘work performance’ have changed, making them independent of factors like ‘amount of time devoted on desk’ or ‘coming to office late or leaving early’.
Moving forward, many companies, including Facebook, Twitter, Shopify, Box, Slack, Upwork and French automaker PAS are giving their employees the option to work from home permanently. However, there are certain challenges that this setup can pose, especially with training new employees, but hybrid workplaces (in office for 1-2 days and remote work the other days) can help solve these issues.
While it is difficult to pronounce a verdict on the success or failure of this new setup, given the global situation, this might just be the workspace setup that a lot more of us will be following in the future.