The future of the office: is #WFH the new ‘normal’?

Hannah Rose

Published by Hannah Rose  on 31st July 2020

Since the start of the pandemic, the whole team at Pillory Barn has been working from home, with our office set to reopen at the beginning of August on a hot-desking basis.

The experience, over the last few months, has been as seamless as could be, thanks to the top-notch skillset of our digital team. Like most people, this sudden, dramatic change in our working routine has got us thinking about the future of the office.

 

Home or the office?  

From our own experience, we know the creative industries can thrive on working from home, especially when you consider the rise of the digital nomad and co-working spaces. At Pillory Barn, we work off of shared points and online portals as normal, so transposing that to the dining room table was easy and enabled a proximity to the kettle that will be hard to relinquish.

But, the humans behind the screens might take some more adjusting to this new workplace setting. We don’t know about you, but virtual conversations are no match for real life and team creativity sparks tenfold sat on our office sofas sharing ideas and wielding an abundance of sticky notes. 

With all this in mind, Covid-19 will see the face of industry changed forever: offices will still be crucial in driving businesses forward, but they will no longer be integral. We can see from the support for local independent businesses and our fixation on pubs and coffee shops – that human interaction and being social is our lifeblood – but the way in which we interact as businesses has evolved. Chances are most companies will now offer employees the choice to split their time between working from home and being in the office for face-to-face meetings, catch-ups or brainstorms.

 

Working from home: creating boundaries 

 

It seems that despite more and more people being taken off furlough – most companies, where possible, are remaining at home. Obviously, there are many factors involved in this, such as office space, risk of commuting and individuals still shielding, but it’s quite clear that WFH is a more viable way to do business moving forward.

As a company, we’re thankful only a few members of the team have been furloughed, and most have been working from home. We may view returning to work as physically entering back into the world, but for a lot of us the working world still revolves around a makeshift home desk and blossoming caffeine addictions. So, whether your return to work extends to the world, or a 30-second commute down the stairs – it’s important we remember what lockdown has taught us.  

Pre-lockdown, WFH had negative associations for most businesses – often looked upon as a less-productive alternative to the office. But businesses are waking up to the fact that productivity is not entirely dependent on shared space.  And, although the shift was imposed rather than chosen, our attitudes are changing. Tech giants are leaders in this progression, with Microsoft explaining that they have a “hybrid workplace strategy as worksites slowly start to open”. 

Lockdown and furlough have also given us a greater comprehension of the work-life balance and what we value from our jobs and communities. Working from home, whilst tricky and often distracting, frees up our time. You waste less hours commuting, it allows parents to be closer to their children and the added flexibility in your working day fuels personal creativity to its fullest. 

Yet, the separation of work and home life is no longer like water and oil (although some may argue it never was) and it has become more like diet coke and mentos (explosive but messy). Discipline and structured routine are crucial to maintain mental health. It’s fantastic to see the flexibility WFH allows though, especially within the creative sector, where you can work during your peak moments and in abstract hours when an idea hits.  

 

A constant for the future? 

 

The return to work doesn’t mean going back to our old ways. Instead, a ‘new normal’ is slowly being teethed out in many different industries and it has been incredible to see the ingenuity that has emerged during these tough times. It’s rather unlikely that a shift to virtual would have been so well-received if we weren’t forced into it, but the outcome has led to cultural shifts that we are still watching with a keen eye.

And, while we see WFH being a constant within our lives moving into the future, there will always be a need for office space. Perhaps we will see a boom in co-working spaces, with places like our friends The Workshop in Folkestone or The Coachworks in Ashford offering fully flexible and adaptive business spaces. Even the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, who’s been praised for her dealing of Coronavirus has discussed plans to roll out a four-day working week, to boost tourism and change the face of the working world. But that’s a discussion for another time!

 

Like everyone else encountering a complete unknown – we’re unsure of what the new normal holds. Although, it definitely seems that there is no longer place for a one size fits all structure. As a creative business we love a challenge and we’re looking forward to paving our way in this new working world.