The future of work spaces

Working from home. (Photo by Jessica Silva)

For many including myself, the idea of pressing pause on everyday life, participating in Zoom classes and working from home initially seemed pretty nice. Not only was it necessary given the current state of the world, but we would get to do things from the comfort of our homes if our school or work allowed for it. 

At first, we did just that, enjoying nights in and time spent with family. But once we ran out of clothes to tie-dye, realized whipped coffee is just alright, and finished Tiger King, longingness for real life began to set in. Having a reason to get ready in the morning, listening to music on our daily commute to work, and off-site lunches with co-workers soon turned to distance memories we longed for.   

Having been quarantined for nearly three months, I can safely say I miss bumping into professors in the halls of DCB or being greeted by dogs as I clocked-in to work. Working at home has shown me how many small nuances I took for granted in everyday life.  

Despite the toll that working remotely may be taking on some of us, it has done the opposite for companies. This new phase of life has shown many businesses that working from home can be a productive alternative to working in a traditional office, and it just may be the new reality for many. 

Tobi Lutke, CEO of Shopify, recently announced on Twitter the company’s decision for employees to continue working remotely as they close their offices until 2021. He states that most employees will work from home permanently even into 2021 as they adjust to this new reality. 

Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and other major companies have made similar decisions, extending working from home or giving their employees the option to do so. Apart from the obvious reasons such as saving money on office space, there are many ways companies have justified their decisions. 

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, believes that working remotely no longer limits the company to hiring people from specific geographic locations, allowing for a more diverse range of employees. CEO of Twitter Jack Dorsey feels as though this time has taught the company that employees can work from home successfully, so if they’d like to, the option should be extended. 

This new found sentiment for working from home is not felt by companies alone. A Gallup poll found that three out of five Americans who have been working remotely during this crisis would like to continue to do so as much as possible, even after the pandemic. 

There are plenty of reasons for this, one of them being the major lifestyle change that many have grown accustomed to. Working from home gives people more time. More time for themselves to cook, fit in a workout, spend time with loved ones and so many other activities that were difficult to do before. Workers are also saving money not having to commute to work. 

There are still so many people who can’t perform their job from the comfort of their home. Restaurant workers, judges, and elementary school teachers to list a few. 

I see why those who can work from home want to, but it begs a number of questions. What accommodations do companies plan on providing for those who don’t have a designated office space or even desk in their homes? If everyone is working from home, it may be difficult for those who have many roommates to find a quiet space to work or jump on a call. In addition, will the hiring process become more competitive now that companies can employ people from anywhere? 

As work spaces adapt, so should companies expectations of their employees.

“There are so many different ways to be creative. There are different things a company can do for their employees, even if it’s not giving equipment but it’s giving some type of understanding and empathy to a change in circumstances,” University of Denver’s Legal Studies professor and practicing attorney Paula Holt said during a Zoom call. “An [employees] job performance is not rested on this current state of affairs, and their bonus payment or keeping their job is given some compassion.”

While there are so many benefits to working remotely, I hope the traditional office space isn’t abandoned in its entirety.

As a college student, so much of what makes the experience come alive is the community around me. Walking through campus, doing homework at Bean’s and heading to club meetings are things that either can’t be done online or just don’t feel the same. 

This problem extends into post-grad as well. I have always looked forward to getting to know my future co-workers and building a strong base of people at work. The idea that I may not have as strong a community now worries me and makes me rethink a lot of the priorities I’ve had when it comes to finding a job.  

I have always dreamed of moving to a big city, but is location as important now if I end up working remotely? Company culture is so important, but will its prominence lessen as the future of workspaces shifts? 

While I realize that this pandemic has changed a lot of things and we will never go completely back to normal, I’m not ready for days of meeting with others face-to-face to be over.   

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