At the beginning of the lockdowns, many of us saw working from home as a blessing.
It meant increased family time, and it put a pause on commuting, which is still pricey, even if it isn’t stressful. There was more downtime at home and far less money spent on work attire—I recently discovered cobwebs in my work clothes drawer. Since the onslaught of the pandemic, there has been an increase in the number of employees who prefer to work from home rather than the office.
Fast-forward to the end of the year, Christmas is only six weeks away—something I am struggling to fully come to terms with—and many of us have been working remotely for nearly an entire year. Family time is in abundance as many of the kids are still not back at school.
You and your partner—or housemates—are sharing makeshift office space and, in a lot of cases, this means working at the kitchen table. Perhaps you’ve even begun to miss the mundane office chitchat and small talk.
In the pre-pandemic world, remote work was not synchronous with social isolation measures, and in the current climate, any form of social interaction almost becomes a treat. I never thought I’d see the day that I’d welcome small talk of any form, but here we are.
All of this got me thinking.
Let’s suppose remote working is becoming the new norm—are we prepared for it? Or, more importantly, is the tech industry ready for it? Because, in many ways, this is where the responsibility lies—in tech.
Everyone’s now using Slack or Teams for text-based communication, Zoom for video calls, and workflow software to keep on top of important processes and tasks. Tech companies are working to keep up with this rapid transition to remote working.
Could we finally be saying farewell to monotonous commutes? The money would be saved for sure, and plenty of time. With less demand, what would become of our public transport systems and the individuals who work for them? Imagine the London underground without rush hour, without the stacks of sour-faced professionals lined up like sardines rubbing shoulders.
Personally, I’d love it, but I doubt the employees whose hours have been cut would feel the same.
Fewer commuters would ultimately result in fewer people in the city. What would this mean for the metropoles? If business processes were completed at home instead of inside offices, the fundamental structure and function of cities could entirely change.
For many businesses, particularly in the hospitality industry, their main revenue source is the stream of professionals coming and going from the city. That stream of professionals might disappear.
Unfortunately, no matter how much we question remote working, the tools that facilitate it, and what it may mean for our future, we will have to find out—only time will tell. Due to the pandemic, we are sailing through uncharted waters.
But, one thing is for certain: the working from home era is truly upon us. There may be no need for us to ever step foot inside an office again—for better or worse.