The future of the workplace: What will the traditional workplace look like? | Part III

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In part three of our future of work series, Lander & Rogers' Workplace Relations & Safety experts explore the unexpected and additional benefits of working from home and their implications for the traditional workplace in the future.

The future of the traditional workplace

COVID-19 is likely to have long-lasting, if not permanent ramifications for the traditional workplace and working environment, with businesses having been forced to adapt to working remotely. Once government restrictions have been lifted, employers may query whether they will return to their previous and traditional work environments or embrace working remotely as a mainstream alternative or flexible work offering.

While it is likely that many organisations will eventually revert to a conventional environment, the return may bring employers and employees a new and greater appreciation of the office environment and the benefits of face-to-face interactions.

Businesses will also likely have the freedom of increasing flexible working arrangements and remote working opportunities, resulting in new industries, jobs and job opportunities and career development. COVID-19 forced many businesses to invest in enhanced technology and hardware to enable working remotely. Employees now have the capability to work from home more regularly and frequently. The flow-on effect of working remotely / working from home is likely to generate greater flexibility for employees, working parents sharing more of the home and family responsibilities, and less congestion on roads and of public transport networks.

Keeping in mind the possibility of future infectious disease outbreaks, employers may also choose to continue to enforce social distancing regulations, positioning workstations at, for example in Australia, 1.5 metres apart and erecting partitions to separate desks within the office environment.

Face-to-face meetings may be reduced to those only considered necessary, utilising video/teleconferences for meetings involving large groups of people. Overall, businesses may reduce the number of employees in the office and their office footprint generally. Businesses may also consider developing a roster system controlling the number of employees coming into work on specific days to prevent future issues arising.

Importantly, the availability of flexible work arrangements, including an increase in remote working, will rely on businesses remedying any technical difficulties they encountered while working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses who had not previously engaged in remote working practices are likely to have identified areas of improvement or weaknesses. While the pandemic may have shown that working remotely is a possibility, it is likely that further advancement in remote working is still required before it is considered a viable and permanent option for many companies.

As has consistently been the case with COVID-19, the situation has been developing rapidly and no-one can say with certainty what the future may hold, including that of the traditional workplace. We, along with the rest of the world, will continue to monitor these developments, but are optimistic that there will be a return to "normalcy" soon, along with some unexpected and additional benefits brought about by the lessons learned and opportunities presented during these times.

Read other insights in our future of the workplace series here:

Our team is actively monitoring and considering the implications of legal and regulatory developments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. You can find our COVID-19 collection here.

All information on this site is of a general nature only and is not intended to be relied upon as, nor to be a substitute for, specific legal professional advice. No responsibility for the loss occasioned to any person acting on or refraining from action as a result of any material published can be accepted.