Working from work: Returning to pre-covid normalcy in 2021?

by Jassandra Nay  11.01.2021 

Before the rise of the Covid-19 pandemic, working from home or remote working was a concept that was not well received by employers and business owners around the world. There was a belief that working out of the office meant lower employer productivity.

Fast forward to 2020, employers around the world have had no alternative but to arrange for their employees to work remotely. In Singapore, a partial lockdown, also known as the Circuit Breaker, was announced on 3 April 2020 and implemented on 7 April 2020. Employers scrambled to make necessary work arrangements for their staff, while businesses rushed to make the necessary changes in operating hours, manpower arrangements and more.

As the Circuit breaker and lockdowns around the world came into place, work from home became the new normal and employers started realising that working from home is not as bad as they once thought. Some are seeing proof that the idea of working from home may not necessarily mean time off or less work done. Big global companies such as Twitter and Shopify even announced that they were looking into permanently allowing staff to work from home.

While employers are starting to see and accept the benefits of remote working, staff may not feel the same entirely.

A research report by employee engagement platform EngageRocket revealed that 40 per cent of working parents found their stress levels unacceptable. The top two challenges they faced were working longer hours than usual and dealing with practical aspects, such as family presence and space constraints. Some employees who live alone also found themselves to be highly isolated and overworked, with some feeling a loss of work-life balance.

2021: Back to work?

As we enter into 2021, life has yet to return back to normal. The global pandemic continues to be widespread in many countries across the world and there is a need to continue staying vigilant against the virus.

In Singapore, as covid-19 infection rates stabilize, we welcomed another phase of reopening on 28 December 2020, with more relaxed guidelines for community and work.

However, all is not back to normal yet. Employees continue to be encouraged to work out of office if possible, while many companies are looking into changing the way work is carried out. Some companies are looking into downsizing their offices for cost saving purposes, while others are looking into more flexible hotdesking and alternative private office spaces for their employees to work from.

With all these changes, it seems that work will never be fully the same again. 

The new norm for work in 2021

It seems that in 2021, companies and employees will have to learn to cope with more changes to their work life. 

Instead of fully returning to work from work, there will be a need to fully accept and learn how to cope with reduced office visits. As the guidelines relax and more offices open, employees can start to work partially from both work and home, a good balance between the daily commute and hustle, and the isolation and possible distractions of working from home. 

As we return back to work, more companies are expected to start considering more flexible office options or to look towards office spaces that are located in less prime locations. Offices that have high staff density may also look into opening more branch offices outside of the Central Business District or downtown core of Singapore to effectively carry out safe distancing. In general, more flexible seating arrangements, smaller offices and the rise of co-sharing rentals are expected and offices may now run on a more flexible schedule and seating for their staff.

Rather than hoping to see offices return back to the same status quo as it was before the pandemic, it is time for us to embrace the changes and learn to cope with the new work from work and work from home arrangements.