Technology’s Role in the Post-COVID-19 Work Space

The Post-Pandemic Workforce

As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to rage on across the globe, many businesses are already looking forward to the eventual return of the workforce. But what will this post-pandemic workforce look like? What changes will happen in the work space, and what role will technology play in employees transition back into the office environment? Nothing is set in stone, but the return to work may be more gradual and messy than some predict. How and when Americans will make the transfer from quarantine back to some semblance of ‘normal’ life is still completely up in the air. Supply and demand needs differ from industry to industry, and without widespread mandatory testing the return to work will likely happen in waves based on consumer demands and industry desperation.

Transitioning to Remote Working

In several of these industries, there may never be a full return to office life. Many businesses are realizing new opportunities and cost savings by shifting the workforce into predominantly remote positions. Other companies are also realizing that many of their employees simply don’t want to return to office life, even after the pandemic subsides. Lots of people are now beginning to wonder why they ever had to go into an office in the first place. As of March 27th, an estimated 16 million employed Americans had transitioned to working remotely from home. It is almost certain that number is now significantly higher. These numbers amount to more than one quarter of all knowledge workers in the United States shifting to remote working setup. Based on a Slack survey of several thousand workers and their employers, there was only a slight dip in productivity following the transition home before productivity levels returned to normal. Similarly, there were feelings of disconnection that negatively affected their sense of belonging. However, these feelings quickly abated as the use of collaborative software tools such as Slack allowed employees to reconnect with their teams and colleagues.

Growing Pains

There have been growing pains during this adjustment period as some systems have begun to crack under the increased demand. Closed corporate networks have experienced a few hiccups as incoming traffic shifted to virtual private networks (VPNs) while internet providers are now being pressured to lift data caps to help aid remote workers. Unsurprisingly, it seems that technology companies had the easiest time making the shift to remote working setups by building upon pre-existing tools such as co-worker chat groups and remote access to important business software. The introduction of other tools such as Tableau or Trello boards also help keep teams coordinated, organized, and up-to-date on current projects. 

Sharing the Data

Software company Box has recently shared their data, revealing the unsurprising growth of collaborative software in the public sector. Their data shows a 142% increase in the number of work apps being used, including services such as videoconferencing, chatting and messaging, cloud storage, and sharing tools. Whether or not remote working setups utilizing these tools will remain for the long term is still up in the air, but it isn’t hard to see the allure of removing expensive real estate from a business’s bottom line.

Collaborative work tools will have critically important roles in how America’s workforce readjusts to a post-COVID-19 world. Utilizing tools that allow access to critical business software while staying connected via team management tools keep businesses agile even when operated remotely. With entire teams able to easily and conveniently video conference, many office jobs have been able to continue to work as normal with minimal impact on production or performance.

Investing in Remote Working Technology

Some companies, including the likes of social media giant Twitter, have pledged to cover the costs of setting up home offices for their employees including things such as computers, software, desks, and ergonomic chairs. These kinds of sizable investments and the growing use of collaborative work tools have prompted some to wonder if companies will come to embrace remote working after the crisis fades. After all, it’s a bit tougher to deny an employee’s remote work request if the business has already paid for their home office. And if productivity remains roughly the same, it’s easier to view the situation as a shrewd investment that could pay off for years. 

“This is not how I envisioned the distributed work revolution taking hold,” said Matt Mullenweg, CEO of Automattic, the software company that owns the popular blogging platform WordPress. In one of his latest blogs, Mullenweg claims these drastic changes to the American workforce “might also offer an opportunity for many companies to finally build a culture that allows long-overdue work flexibility. Millions of people will get the chance to experience days without long commutes, or the harsh inflexibility of not being able to stay close to home when a family member is sick… This might be a chance for a great reset in terms of how we work,” he wrote.

It seems as though technology is going to play a key role in adapting to post-COVID-19 workplaces. The true depth and breadth of collaborative software and remote working tools’ impact on the workforce remains to be seen. It is hard to believe that things will ever fully go back to normal, but humans are resilient and capable of adapting technology to assist us under any circumstance. Whether or not workers return to their offices in droves, or end up adapting to full-time remote work, it is clear that this COVID-19 pandemic is poised to change the way American’s view the workforce. 

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At Lithios we value outside opinions. This blog was written by one of our guest bloggers.

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