Companies Discover How to Work from Home – Is the Office Doomed?

Written by Anthony Carter, Managing Director, Connotations Publishing Ltd. Published 2020-08-12 08:04:52

There is an interesting thing happening in cities around the world. Office buildings sit empty while workers continue to earn their pay from home. Indeed, there are growing concerns that some companies might never bring their workers back to the office. Having discovered their team members can be equally productive at home, they are questioning the value of reopening the office.

This begs the question of whether or not the official office environment is doomed. Plenty of good arguments exist on both sides. The one thing we can all agree on is that network technology has matured as a result of the coronavirus crisis. Much of the maturity has been by necessity.

Beefing up Infrastructure

So many people working from home has put record stress on the world's networks. Videoconferencing has replaced face-to-face meetings. Industry trade shows and conferences have been moved online. Virtually every company that doesn't have to bring team members to a central location has figured out ways to keep them home.

This has forced our industry to make a concerted effort to beef up infrastructure. Data centres have added new servers. They have increased redundancy by serving data from multiple locations. Meanwhile, SaaS providers have been beefing up their cloud environments and working to make their applications more secure.

It has been a remarkably busy and stressful six months. The hard work and stress will continue for some time. But the good news is that we are keeping up. Technology is gradually improving with every passing day. Many of the glitches that interrupted working at home back in March have been conquered in the months since.

Working at Home More Comfortable

Thanks to improved technology, working at home is now more comfortable as well. Workers are less stressed about the technology and better able to focus on their work. Managers have discovered that they can use technology to continue managing teams in ways similar to what they would have done in the office.

Where does all this lead? Directly to the question of whether or not workers should ever return to the office. It is a question that business owners, politicians, and workers all have to answer. And thus far, things are not looking good for the traditional office.

Running a 50% Capacity

Here in the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is asking companies to bring their workers back to the office in hopes of getting the economy going again. Companies are resisting those calls. Many of them say they can only bring workers back to 50% capacity and still maintain proper social distancing. That leaves them with only a few choices.

They can leave half of their workers home and continue working on ways to maintain peak productivity. They can rent more space and bring everyone back. While it is possible that some companies could do so, it's unlikely most will double their rent expenditures when half the team can stay home.

The Same Story Elsewhere

The UK is not alone in trying to understand the office dilemma. In fact, it is the same story just about everywhere. A recent Motley Fool analysis suggests that commercial property could be in for some big changes as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

Among their predictions, Motley Fool says that companies will need to rethink how they lay out their spaces. They will need more room between desks and cubicles. They will need larger conference rooms to hold face-to-face meetings. They will need wider halls, bigger restrooms, etc.

All of this makes sense if companies intend to bring the entire workforce back to the office. But such an assumption is presumptuous. Again, a lot of companies have figured out that working from home is not the end of the world. It is hard to believe that they will spend more on office space to meet social distancing requirements if they don't have to.

Invest in Technology Instead

It seems to us that companies would rather invest in technology than more office space. After all, technology is what really drives their businesses. Office space merely gives them a place to set up shop. If technology can facilitate more people working from home, it doesn't seem reasonable that companies would reject said technology in favour of spending more on real estate.

The traditional office environment may not be doomed to complete elimination, but there is a good chance that it will never return to what it was prior to the onset of coronavirus. Companies have just gained too much technology over the last four months.

Regardless of how it all pans out, the data centre industry has made huge strides in accommodating the work-at-home paradigm. We will keep moving forward to improve access to networks and new network technologies.

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