The era of remote work challenges companies to redefine and reorganize physical workplaces
The Covid-19 pandemic has lasted for over a year and many companies have begun to question the necessity of office spaces and physical workplaces. Workers have adapted to remote work well, and even tasks that used to require a physical work location or materials can get done remotely. At the same, maintaining empty office spaces in physical locations is costly. In this week’s newsletter, our researchers discuss recent research findings on workers’ expectations on traditional work practices and changes in physical workspaces. It is safe to say, the workplace, as we knew it will not be the same after the pandemic.
The remaining meeting rooms were large, with doors ranging in size from 6 to 20 people, requiring advance booking. The premises also had password-operated lockers where employees could store personal items such as jackets, shoes, or bags. This allowed workers to move easily between spaces. After the change of premises, employees found flexible work easier than before.
In the past, old repetitive routines, such as greeting practices, perceptual practices and evaluative beliefs, had formed in the old premises, and the change in premises changed these routines and thus affected employees’ thoughts and attitudes about work flexibility. In the new office, no one was smothering others to come and go, as they were able to work freely on different floors, with the client, in the coffee store or at home.
Literature: Gonsalves, L. (2020). From Face Time to Flex Time: The Role of Physical Space in Worker Temporal Flexibility, Administrative Science Quarterly, 65(4),1058–1091.
Covid-19 and the new norm of (digital) working
The COVID-19 pandemic abruptly interrupted normal work routines that resulted in increased remote work. Interestingly, many changes and trends were already on their way and in the making but the sudden outbreak of the new coronavirus accelerated the implementation of many of those trends, such as increasing digitalization of work.
One major difference exists though: In a normal situation, remote work was open to employee preferences, which was not an option given the strict social distancing policies due to the pandemic. How do forced remote work and digitalization influence employees’ thoughts about work?
A study by Nagel (2020) from the early stages of the pandemic set to answer this question (among others) and examined the digital transformation of work. The quantitative study surveyed 554 adult workers. The survey measured the workers’ thoughts about traditional and digital jobs as a secure source of income, and anticipations of the importance of digital forms of work.
According to the study, workers’ perceived importance of traditional jobs as a secure source of income decreased while the importance of digital jobs increased. Furthermore, the study found that workers predicted digital jobs to be more likely sources of secure income in the future than before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some workers expected that traditional jobs will again increase their importance in the future but their importance as a secure source of income was still considered significantly less than before the pandemic.
Literature: Nagel, L. (2020). The influence of the COVID-19 pandemic on the digital transformation of work. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy.