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13 ways the coronavirus pandemic could forever change the way we work

change the way we work

13 ways the coronavirus pandemic could forever change the way we work. In only a few months, the coronavirus pandemic has upended the daily lives of people around the world.

For Americans, the economic impact of the virus has led to new categorizations of “essential” workers, a large-scale move to remote work and skyrocketing unemployment that is expected to continue increasing.

With more than 30 million people filing for unemployment in the past six weeks, the U.S. is predicted to experience a coronavirus-induced recession through 2021.

And amid stay-at-home orders across the country, office workers have ditched their daily commutes to work from dining room tables, couches and beds in their own homes. Many may find themselves in this situation for the long haul, as businesses struggle to find a path forward while restrictions slowly lift.

But what other changes will we see in the coming months and years? CNBC Make It spoke to futurists, employment experts, CEOs, designers and more to find out how the pandemic could forever transform the way we work.

Working in an office could become a status symbol

13 ways the coronavirus pandemic could forever change the way we work: Following the pandemic, it’s likely that more Americans will split their time between working from home and from a corporate office, says Brent Capron, the design director of interiors at architecture firm Perkins and Will’s New York studio.

“People will still gather for work,” he says. “But the amount of time you work in proximity with others, and what your work week looks like — I see that to be the biggest cultural shift moving forward.”

With more people working remotely, companies may open regional hubs or provide access to co-working spaces wherever their workers are concentrated rather than have the majority of their workforce at one central office.

As a result, corporate headquarters may become a status symbol for the companies that still have the budget and a workforce big enough to warrant pricey real estate in a major city.

A company’s investment in its headquarters could become a way to recruit talent, says Jane Oates, president of WorkingNation, a nonprofit campaign about unemployment, and a former assistant secretary at the Department of Labor.

Job seekers may consider it a draw to work for a company with a physical location, which could boost brand awareness and overall influence within the industry.

Most meetings could be replaced by email and IM

13 ways the coronavirus pandemic could forever change the way we work: Expect your post-pandemic work calendar to contain fewer meetings overall, says Nadjia Yousif, managing director and partner of Boston Consulting Group’s London office.

The pandemic has been a technological equalizer of sorts, she says, where people previously unaccustomed to using tech tools in the workplace have had no choice but to adapt. And in some cases, workers are becoming more efficient.

“People have been more patient in learning new technologies and engaging with them, simply because they’ve had to,” Yousif says. “I think those best practices will live on. I think we’re all developing new muscles to work virtually.”

To that end, expect a generally more agile way of working and communicating with colleagues: More meetings will become emails, and more emails will become instant messages.

For team members who no longer work together in a central office, phone calls and meetings may move to video. This could help to build trust among workers who can’t interact in person, Yousif says.

When you’re able to pick up on nonverbal cues, or you’re invited into a colleague’s home via video chat, “a different type of intimacy is formed in a faster way than would happen in a traditional working environment,” she says.

It could be the end of business travel as we know it

v: As travel of all kinds is halted, telecommuting is adopted at scale and companies attempt to cut costs and balance their budgets, many experts believe business trips as we know them will be a thing of the past.

“I don’t think [business travel] is ever going to be exactly the same,” says Gary Leff, a travel industry expert and author of the blog View from the Wing.

Changing consumer preferences and greater interest in social distancing will limit large group events such as conferences and conventions for the foreseeable future, says Leff, and permanently decrease the volume of business travel.

Additionally, Leff expects that during this time, companies will learn that some business travel is unnecessary and can be done via video meetings. He also points out as organizations attempt to recoup their pandemic-related losses, travel budgets will be cut.

Office buildings could become ‘elaborate conference centers’

13 ways the coronavirus pandemic could forever change the way we work: With the office building recast as the ultimate status symbol, its main purpose could shift.

“Does office space strictly become elaborate conference centers?” asks Capron. He predicts office buildings of the future may become facilities to gather, while focused work is done remotely.

This could mean fewer walled-off offices and more gathering spaces to host meetings, conferences and other company-wide events.

Beyond that, the open office floor plan will likely stick around. Despite criticism that they kill productivity, it’s likely companies will still use the layout in an effort to lower real estate costs.

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Open layouts will change, however: Desks could become spaced out, partitions could go up, cleaning stations stocked with hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes will become the norm, and workers may seek out spaces for focused work, such as privacy booths. Capron stops short of saying cubicles will make a comeback.

Agile workspaces with unassigned seating will decline in popularity. Workers will want the security and control of having a personal space they come to every day or every few days and can clean frequently.

In shared spaces, expect more touchless fixtures, such as door sensors, automatic sinks and soap dispensers and voice-activated elevator banks.

Architects may also design spaces with durable building materials, furniture, flooring and other surfaces that can stand up to frequent deep-cleaning, which is expected to be a lasting necessity of the future workplace for years to come.

In only a few months, the coronavirus pandemic has upended the daily lives of people around the world. For Americans, the economic impact of the virus has led to new categorizations of “essential” workers, a large-scale move to remote work and skyrocketing unemployment that is expected to continue increasing.

With more than 30 million people filing for unemployment in the past six weeks, the U.S. is predicted to experience a coronavirus-induced recession through 2021.

And amid stay-at-home orders across the country, office workers have ditched their daily commutes to work from dining room tables, couches and beds in their own homes. Many may find themselves in this situation for the long haul, as businesses struggle to find a path forward while restrictions slowly lift.

But what other changes will we see in the coming months and years? CNBC Make It spoke to futurists, employment experts, CEOs, designers and more to find out how the pandemic could forever transform the way we work.

Working in an office could become a status symbol

13 ways the coronavirus pandemic could forever change the way we work: Following the pandemic, it’s likely that more Americans will split their time between working from home and from a corporate office, says Brent Capron, the design director of interiors at architecture firm Perkins and Will’s New York studio.

“People will still gather for work,” he says. “But the amount of time you work in proximity with others, and what your work week looks like — I see that to be the biggest cultural shift moving forward.”

With more people working remotely, companies may open regional hubs or provide access to co-working spaces wherever their workers are concentrated rather than have the majority of their workforce at one central office.

As a result, corporate headquarters may become a status symbol for the companies that still have the budget and a workforce big enough to warrant pricey real estate in a major city.

A company’s investment in its headquarters could become a way to recruit talent, says Jane Oates, president of WorkingNation, a nonprofit campaign about unemployment, and a former assistant secretary at the Department of Labor.

Job seekers may consider it a draw to work for a company with a physical location, which could boost brand awareness and overall influence within the industry.

Most meetings could be replaced by email and IM

13 ways the coronavirus pandemic could forever change the way we work: Expect your post-pandemic work calendar to contain fewer meetings overall, says Nadjia Yousif, managing director and partner of Boston Consulting Group’s London office.

The pandemic has been a technological equalizer of sorts, she says, where people previously unaccustomed to using tech tools in the workplace have had no choice but to adapt. And in some cases, workers are becoming more efficient.

“People have been more patient in learning new technologies and engaging with them, simply because they’ve had to,” Yousif says. “I think those best practices will live on. I think we’re all developing new muscles to work virtually.”

To that end, expect a generally more agile way of working and communicating with colleagues: More meetings will become emails, and more emails will become instant messages.

For team members who no longer work together in a central office, phone calls and meetings may move to video. This could help to build trust among workers who can’t interact in person, Yousif says.

When you’re able to pick up on nonverbal cues, or you’re invited into a colleague’s home via video chat, “a different type of intimacy is formed in a faster way than would happen in a traditional working environment,” she says.

It could be the end of business travel as we know it

13 ways the coronavirus pandemic could forever change the way we work: As travel of all kinds is halted, telecommuting is adopted at scale and companies attempt to cut costs and balance their budgets, many experts believe business trips as we know them will be a thing of the past.

“I don’t think [business travel] is ever going to be exactly the same,” says Gary Leff, a travel industry expert and author of the blog View from the Wing.

Changing consumer preferences and greater interest in social distancing will limit large group events such as conferences and conventions for the foreseeable future, says Leff, and permanently decrease the volume of business travel.

Additionally, Leff expects that during this time, companies will learn that some business travel is unnecessary and can be done via video meetings. He also points out as organizations attempt to recoup their pandemic-related losses, travel budgets will be cut.

Office buildings could become ‘elaborate conference centers’

13 ways the coronavirus pandemic could forever change the way we work: With the office building recast as the ultimate status symbol, its main purpose could shift.

“Does office space strictly become elaborate conference centers?” asks Capron. He predicts office buildings of the future may become facilities to gather, while focused work is done remotely.

This could mean fewer walled-off offices and more gathering spaces to host meetings, conferences and other company-wide events.

Beyond that, the open office floor plan will likely stick around. Despite criticism that they kill productivity, it’s likely companies will still use the layout in an effort to lower real estate costs.

Open layouts will change, however: Desks could become spaced out, partitions could go up, cleaning stations stocked with hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes will become the norm, and workers may seek out spaces for focused work, such as privacy booths. Capron stops short of saying cubicles will make a comeback.

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Agile workspaces with unassigned seating will decline in popularity. Workers will want the security and control of having a personal space they come to every day or every few days and can clean frequently.

In shared spaces, expect more touchless fixtures, such as door sensors, automatic sinks and soap dispensers and voice-activated elevator banks.

Architects may also design spaces with durable building materials, furniture, flooring and other surfaces that can stand up to frequent deep-cleaning, which is expected to be a lasting necessity of the future workplace for years to come.

Fashion-ready face masks could become a wardrobe staple

13 ways the coronavirus pandemic could forever change the way we work: Though business casual will likely remain the norm in offices, two new types of apparel could also spring from the pandemic: The rise of work-from-home office wear, and face masks as a socially mandated accessory.

Workers who video conference frequently may retool their wardrobe to be camera-friendly — more bold colors, large-scale patterns and clean lines; fewer neutrals, small prints and frills.

“If we are going to be mediating our professional lives on screens more, I think people will think more about how they appear on screen,” says Natalie Nudell, a fashion and textiles historian faculty member at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.

Wearing a face mask around the office may become commonplace, especially in bigger companies with more workers sharing tight quarters. This could be an opportunity for the textile industry to innovate how to make masks more protective, comfortable and stylish.

Standard 9-to-5 office hours could become a thing of the past

13 ways the coronavirus pandemic could forever change the way we work: As professionals juggle the demands of work life and home life all in the same place, many employers have relaxed rules about workers starting and ending their days at a set time.

“I think you’ll see a new norm around trust and respect” in the ways employers manage their staff moving forward, says career coach Julie Kratz. With many employees successfully working from home now, it will be a lot harder for employers to deny flexibility around work hours and work settings, she explains.

“For most office-type work, you can absolutely do your work remotely, and with technology, you can build it around your schedule,” adds Kratz, who says that many of her clients at tech companies such as Salesforce were already working flexible hours before the Covid-19 outbreak.

To maintain a sense of structure, Kratz says employers will have to set expectations for when they need everyone in the office or online for staff meetings and other team activities. Additionally, she says, in order to create a balance between work time and personal time, employees and managers will have to work closely together to ensure that no one is feeling pressured to respond to emails and messages at all hours of the day.

“By all means, it’s not about throwing out all the rules,” she emphasizes, “but it’s about letting people co-create them.”

Home office stipends could become a common perk

13 ways the coronavirus pandemic could forever change the way we work: When Twitter and e-commerce company Shopify issued mandatory work-from-home orders for employees in March, both employers provided staff with additional resources to help smooth the transition to remote work.

At Shopify, workers were given a $1,000 stipend to purchase necessary supplies for their home office spaces. Meanwhile at Twitter, all employees, including hourly workers, received reimbursement for home office equipment including desks, chairs and ergonomic cushions.

If working remotely becomes the norm, then home office stipends could become a common workplace perk, says bestselling author and futurist Jacob Morgan.

In order for remote work to be effective, employers will have to provide employees with the resources needed to be productive, he explains. This includes a small stipend that will allow workers to “customize their space in a way they think is sufficient.”

This remote flexibility will also allow companies to “save money on the overhead cost of running these massive facilities,” career coach Julie Kratz adds.

On average, employers that allow employees to work from home part-time save about $11,000 per year for each employee working remotely, according to research-based consulting firm Global Workplace Analytics. Using some of this money to invest in remote office setups “will buy loyalty from your employees because it shows you care about them, you care about the ergonomics of their situation at home and you want them to be happy and productive,” Kratz says.

Fashion-ready face masks could become a wardrobe staple

13 ways the coronavirus pandemic could forever change the way we work: Though business casual will likely remain the norm in offices, two new types of apparel could also spring from the pandemic: The rise of work-from-home office wear, and face masks as a socially mandated accessory.

Workers who video conference frequently may retool their wardrobe to be camera-friendly — more bold colors, large-scale patterns and clean lines; fewer neutrals, small prints and frills.

“If we are going to be mediating our professional lives on screens more, I think people will think more about how they appear on screen,” says Natalie Nudell, a fashion and textiles historian faculty member at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.

Wearing a face mask around the office may become commonplace, especially in bigger companies with more workers sharing tight quarters. This could be an opportunity for the textile industry to innovate how to make masks more protective, comfortable and stylish.

Standard 9-to-5 office hours could become a thing of the past

13 ways the coronavirus pandemic could forever change the way we work: As professionals juggle the demands of work life and home life all in the same place, many employers have relaxed rules about workers starting and ending their days at a set time.

“I think you’ll see a new norm around trust and respect” in the ways employers manage their staff moving forward, says career coach Julie Kratz. With many employees successfully working from home now, it will be a lot harder for employers to deny flexibility around work hours and work settings, she explains.

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“For most office-type work, you can absolutely do your work remotely, and with technology, you can build it around your schedule,” adds Kratz, who says that many of her clients at tech companies such as Salesforce were already working flexible hours before the Covid-19 outbreak.

To maintain a sense of structure, Kratz says employers will have to set expectations for when they need everyone in the office or online for staff meetings and other team activities. Additionally, she says, in order to create a balance between work time and personal time, employees and managers will have to work closely together to ensure that no one is feeling pressured to respond to emails and messages at all hours of the day.

“By all means, it’s not about throwing out all the rules,” she emphasizes, “but it’s about letting people co-create them.”

Home office stipends could become a common perk

When Twitter and e-commerce company Shopify issued mandatory work-from-home orders for employees in March, both employers provided staff with additional resources to help smooth the transition to remote work.

At Shopify, workers were given a $1,000 stipend to purchase necessary supplies for their home office spaces. Meanwhile at Twitter, all employees, including hourly workers, received reimbursement for home office equipment including desks, chairs and ergonomic cushions.

If working remotely becomes the norm, then home office stipends could become a common workplace perk, says bestselling author and futurist Jacob Morgan.

In order for remote work to be effective, employers will have to provide employees with the resources needed to be productive, he explains. This includes a small stipend that will allow workers to “customize their space in a way they think is sufficient.”

This remote flexibility will also allow companies to “save money on the overhead cost of running these massive facilities,” career coach Julie Kratz adds.

On average, employers that allow employees to work from home part-time save about $11,000 per year for each employee working remotely, according to research-based consulting firm Global Workplace Analytics. Using some of this money to invest in remote office setups “will buy loyalty from your employees because it shows you care about them, you care about the ergonomics of their situation at home and you want them to be happy and productive,” Kratz says.

Fashion-ready face masks could become a wardrobe staple

Though business casual will likely remain the norm in offices, two new types of apparel could also spring from the pandemic: The rise of work-from-home office wear, and face masks as a socially mandated accessory.

Workers who video conference frequently may retool their wardrobe to be camera-friendly — more bold colors, large-scale patterns and clean lines; fewer neutrals, small prints and frills.

“If we are going to be mediating our professional lives on screens more, I think people will think more about how they appear on screen,” says Natalie Nudell, a fashion and textiles historian faculty member at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.

Wearing a face mask around the office may become commonplace, especially in bigger companies with more workers sharing tight quarters. This could be an opportunity for the textile industry to innovate how to make masks more protective, comfortable and stylish.

Standard 9-to-5 office hours could become a thing of the past

As professionals juggle the demands of work life and home life all in the same place, many employers have relaxed rules about workers starting and ending their days at a set time.

“I think you’ll see a new norm around trust and respect” in the ways employers manage their staff moving forward, says career coach Julie Kratz. With many employees successfully working from home now, it will be a lot harder for employers to deny flexibility around work hours and work settings, she explains.

“For most office-type work, you can absolutely do your work remotely, and with technology, you can build it around your schedule,” adds Kratz, who says that many of her clients at tech companies such as Salesforce were already working flexible hours before the Covid-19 outbreak.

To maintain a sense of structure, Kratz says employers will have to set expectations for when they need everyone in the office or online for staff meetings and other team activities. Additionally, she says, in order to create a balance between work time and personal time, employees and managers will have to work closely together to ensure that no one is feeling pressured to respond to emails and messages at all hours of the day.

“By all means, it’s not about throwing out all the rules,” she emphasizes, “but it’s about letting people co-create them.”

Home office stipends could become a common perk

When Twitter and e-commerce company Shopify issued mandatory work-from-home orders for employees in March, both employers provided staff with additional resources to help smooth the transition to remote work.

At Shopify, workers were given a $1,000 stipend to purchase necessary supplies for their home office spaces. Meanwhile at Twitter, all employees, including hourly workers, received reimbursement for home office equipment including desks, chairs and ergonomic cushions.

If working remotely becomes the norm, then home office stipends could become a common workplace perk, says bestselling author and futurist Jacob Morgan.

In order for remote work to be effective, employers will have to provide employees with the resources needed to be productive, he explains. This includes a small stipend that will allow workers to “customize their space in a way they think is sufficient.”

This remote flexibility will also allow companies to “save money on the overhead cost of running these massive facilities,” career coach Julie Kratz adds.

On average, employers that allow employees to work from home part-time save about $11,000 per year for each employee working remotely, according to research-based consulting firm Global Workplace Analytics.

Using some of this money to invest in remote office setups “will buy loyalty from your employees because it shows you care about them, you care about the ergonomics of their situation at home and you want them to be happy and productive,” Kratz says.

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