Smart companies will look beyond potential cost savings and base their decisions on how to best invest in their most important assets . . . their employees.

I’m often asked what I believe will be the impact of the work-from-home transition on office occupancy. I think it’s a matter of planning and investing where the money will be best served.

COVID-19 has accelerated a work-from-home (WFH) trial that might otherwise have taken years to duplicate. One year is not long enough to measure the impact of WFH on office culture and company productivity.

A return to our previous normal practice seems a long time away and some speculators predict the COVID-19 pandemic will change office interaction permanently.

Company culture can take years to build. The results of this great WFH experiment on that company culture will, therefore, take time to assess.

Power lies in people

Our new agents state their most significant learning experiences take place while shadowing senior agents on client calls or touring properties.

Our training sessions delivered through video conference do not compare to the student interaction that takes place during the in-person classroom setting.

For the senior employee or executive with well-established business networks who are experienced in their field, the work-from-home experience can be beneficial and productive.

For new hires, junior employees and those just starting out in an industry, WFH has been found to significantly stunt their growth and productivity within an organization.

Many need social connections within the office to advance their careers within a company.

Smart companies of the future will design office space which will allow their teams to connect within the office in meaningful ways.

Integrated thinking

Location flexibility will be designed around the employee rather than the company.

We are becoming increasingly aware that achieving work-life balance is equally beneficial for the corporation and employee. For a company to place its focus solely on how to save costs can be best described as short-term thinking.

In January, an extensive U.K. report titled Working from Home under COVID-19 lockdown: Transitions and Tensions by the University of Southampton discovered:

“Many people expressed a strong need for connection and social support. Few miss the regular travel to work. Many miss the workplace as a source of social interaction – those opportunities to contribute new ideas, learn from others and feel connected to the organisation.”

The report stated, “Digital communication has not been an adequate substitute for these interactions that enrich working life. No organizational effort to help employees compensate for this social deficit is likely to be wasted.”

This discussion will vary depending upon many factors, including but not limited to: the industry, typical commute time, tenure of employee and position.

This pandemic has advanced the pace of change by five to 10 years.

It will, however, be a few more years before we have an accurate picture of this new WFH model.

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