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It is very important to be aware that going back to work will not be going back “where we left off” and that things will not be the same. The vast majority of businesses will undergo a transformation. We are experiencing a transitioning back to work after COVID-19 and it is important to be aware of this and to develop realistic expectations of ourselves and others. It is OK if it is difficult for us and if there are any feelings that were present at the beginning of the pandemic. It is important to monitor ourselves, our reactions and give ourselves time to adjust. On the other hand, some positive things will certainly remain more frequent work from home, more online communication, and the use of new tools for work. It can be a reminder and a motivator that a crisis if we adapt successfully, can bring long-term positive changes.

For managers, all those proposals that were current during the crisis are still in force, and which include – transparent communication, understanding for different reactions of employees, and motivating employees through real optimism. It is especially important for managers to understand the different, sometimes surprising reactions of their employees (as well as their own reactions) and to be aware of that transition period. Here are 10 tips on how to transition employees back to work after COVID-19:

1. No handshakes, fewer meetings

The handshakes are out until further notice. At the same time, the management of the companies will start thinking about practical measures. Tom Frieden asked himself: “Can we design a door that doesn’t have to be opened by touch? Should we regularly measure people’s temperature when entering the workspace?”.

Disinfectants will become part of the usual routine. We can also expect a reduction in the number of people in one space, as well as the fact that office computers and telephones are no longer shared. It is certain that they will insist on the use of masks.

Supermarkets are already limiting the number of people who can enter them at a time, setting up plastic barriers between buyers and sellers, and demanding respect for distance – all of which could come to life in cafes as well.

Employers could encourage work from home or arrange for workers to come to work at different times. A reduced number of meetings is also an option. Frieden says that could be one of the positive effects of the Covid-19 virus, because in his opinion there were too many business meetings.

2. More sick leave

U.S. epidemiologist Brandon Brown says he will be encouraged in the future, not discouraged, to stay home when employees are sick. America has a notorious work culture, among other things because there is no compulsory sick leave at the federal level.

The consequence is that people come to work despite illness. According to a survey from 2019, conducted on 2,800 workers, exactly one-third of them always come to work, regardless of whether they are ill or not. Teleworking will become commonplace for many, especially because it has been shown to be effective. Due to the forced stay at home, we realized that physical meetings are not always necessary. Now and after the pandemic, the virtual ones should prevail.

3. Special attention to toilets

If someone has just the initial signs of a cold, provide him with a mask, instruct the worker to call his chosen doctor on the phone, and provide a replacement. Emphasize the importance of staying at home for employees with flu-like symptoms. Provide working conditions that reduce the risk of spreading infection Employee jobs vary depending on the risk of developing acute respiratory illness and accordingly, people at greatest risk (employees who are in direct contact with large numbers of people) need additional measures that will try to reduce the existing risk.

The main things to do are to provide hand disinfection stations, Ready to Use (RTU) disinfection spray, or wipes for employees from the list of products offered to you by your Ecolab representative, provide disinfect their work surfaces according to the product label, educate and inform employees about the status of the infection and the correct procedures for controlling the infection.

Regular and thorough hand washing will still be required in the workplace. Surfaces that are touched frequently will be cleaned more often. Even more, attention will be paid to toilets and drains, because there is evidence that the corona virus can be transmitted through feces. It is recommended, not to ignore the inexplicable smell in toilets, bathrooms, kitchens, but to improve the knees on the drains. One step forward, towards reducing the risk, could be to flush the water while the lid on the toilet is lowered. Namely, the jet when rinsing the toilet can release 80,000 contaminated droplets into the air, which can stay there for hours.

4. Communicate optimally

Employees in companies will have a number of questions about what the business will look like, how stable the company is, what the long-term perspective is, and many more. Communicate openly and ask managers, colleagues, HR. Share your thoughts with them and focus on acting in those domains in which you have influence. Be prepared that you will not always get a concrete answer because that is not always achievable in this situation, but the conversation and exchange that we have, for us, in the psychological sense, is useful and supportive. If you have difficulty coping with the situation of return, seek support – contact HR, one of the colleagues who can help you.

The Buffer survey stated that 20 % of respondents mentioned communication and cooperation as the biggest challenges of teleworking. When working from home it is easy to fall into the trap of too little or too much communication. Both can be the result of feelings of isolation. There are other reasons: too little communication is often due to incompetence of employees and managers in technological forms of communication, insufficiently good working conditions from home or simply, although rarely, using the ability of either manager or employee to be absent. Excessive communication is sometimes an expression of a well-meaning desire to keep the team together. Sometimes it is a person’s aspiration to prove himself or a managerial aspiration to supervise or even, control, employees.

Communication has a strong impact on motivation and performance, so you try to recognize these pitfalls in time and to communicate optimally for the work process, as well as for good interpersonal relationships.

Take an interest in the work of employees: communicating does not only mean setting a goal or explaining it but carefully following what the employee has to say. Perhaps working in new circumstances poses challenges that require different support. Listen more carefully than usual, because the situation faced by an employee whose working day you do not attend directly, may be such that it requires you to move away from the usual way of solving problems. Make an effort to provide support to an employee who does not know enough about modern communication technologies, to use them competently.

After an online meeting or telephone conversation, summarize the key points of the communication and forward them in the form of an e-mail to the employees to ensure an equal understanding of what has been agreed. This is a recommended practice, but in teleworking, it is necessary even with smaller agreements. Misunderstanding or frequent changes of instructions have a very negative effect on motivation. Identify the channels and dynamics of mandatory communication and let every employee in the team be familiar with it.

Pay special attention to monitoring progress and informing employees about the business flow, use knowledge from project management and scoreboards so that all employees in the team are informed in time and have the right information. Visualize the data and create if you don’t already have one, and if the company thinks it’s safe, an online place where documents relevant to the workflow are located, and that everyone on the team can access.

5. Keep up the remote work

Working from home is a possibility only for some people – if you work as a waiter, it is simply not feasible. For anyone who can and wants to work from home, the benefits are more than evident. If you don’t have to work in an office, you don’t even have to spend time on transportation, which is a huge advantage, especially in big cities.

According to a Colliers survey, 82 percent of employees expressed a desire to work from home one or more days a week even after the COVID-19 crisis. Flexible working hours and a more relaxed atmosphere are also some reasons why employees opted for this option.

We live in a time when everyday life brings with it a lot of stress, pressure, and expectations. No matter what your job is, there will be days when you will be nervous and irritable. We are annoyed by traffic jams, sometimes we are annoyed by colleagues, sometimes the salary is late. When we work from home, we can avoid some things, but that does not mean that we are completely relieved of stress.

6. Shorter daily meetings, so we don’t get lazy

In these days of high voltage, it is expected that the employer or management will organize new work processes within the express deadline, primarily so that communication within teams or among associates would be as close as possible to what they see every day. But you can also take the initiative and suggest what to do.

Shorter information meetings once or twice a day for 15 minutes can really help a good flow of information and information about the next tasks and the progress of current ones, but above all, they can contribute to not getting lazy because we don’t have someone to report to. Yes, even very self-disciplined people know how to stumble here.

Today, at least there are many great platforms for group video calls and (or) instant messaging, and the nuances are in question, and according to team needs, it remains to decide between Zoom, Skype, Cisco, Webex, GoogleHangouts, Microsoft Teams, Slack.

If it is really necessary to be constantly in communication, a longer audio call proved to be an effective practice. This specifically means that you have a headset and a constantly on tone (video can sometimes only interfere with both concentration and call quality) and when a colleague needs to say something to everyone, turn on the microphone and do so. This can be faster and clearer than the exchange of group messages, which in other teams often creates noise in communication.

7. Recognize the efforts of employees

Everyone wants to feel valued. The extra effort put into a job if it is not recognized, appreciated, and rewarded can leave an employee with a sense of being cheated and underestimated. Always give gratitude to your associates for the achieved result. Do not adorn yourself with other people’s feathers, but acknowledge the merits of successful work to everyone.

According to the statistics of the Employment Bureau in America, from 2016, the average time of stayingin one job is four and a half years. With the arrival of the younger generation of millennials, that time has become even shorter. Millennials do not expect to stay in one job for more than three years.

Such statistics are by no means good for employees either, and it is even worse for employers who have to look for and then train workers. A work environment that supports honesty, open communication, and fair relationships will have no difficulty in retaining a good worker.

Praise is one of the most important management tools we have for us. Praising human work enables the recognition and motivation not only of an individual who praises praise, but also cultivates a climate of respect.

But in general, perhaps because managers are problem-oriented or because our culture encourages criticism rather than praise, praise is not widely used. If you want to be a good employer, look for opportunities to compliment your staff. This will save you time in the long run because happier employees who feel value create fewer problems along the way.

8. Organize adequate working space

Some employees need space for team and video meetings, others need to have a separate office, some teams need open space, some employees need a desk only part of the day a week… The company’s workspace needs to be transformed in relation to individual employee needs.

We can get this by offering employees a system of interconnected zones and settings that provide users with many spaces adapted to their different ways of working. It is necessary to offer solutions that encourage people to sit, stand or move using new technologies, as well as experiences that increase human interaction through the organization of space. We must not forget that during the day it is equally important for the employee to be part of the team, but also himself, so it is important to design a combination of different spaces and give him the opportunity to choose, but also control to decide which zone suits him at what moment.

Also, new technologies should be taken into account during the process of designing and equipping different zones. Some jobs require people to spend the most time at the table, for which fixed technology is a viable solution. Others, whose jobs require increased collaboration, greater interaction, and information exchange, must be provided with mobile technology or technology that allows them to access information throughout the workspace. Given the changes in how people work today, it is necessary to consider how best to harmonize jobs and the various opportunities that new technologies provide.

By creating spaces, you create a work environment that contributes to the productivity and motivation of employees, as well as their well-being, providing them with zones with different levels of privacy – assigned jobs, private offices (accessible to all when no one is in them), silent rooms, common areas and one employee to sit and work, such as touchdown spaces, training rooms, collaboration spaces, project team zones, leisure and leisure zones, where challenges are also addressed in an informal atmosphere. Be aware of their needs, tools, knowledge, and experience on how to best adapt the space, where employees will enjoy and spend time happily, solve challenges, make and strengthen mutual relationships through the various contents that are provided to them.

9. Make employees actively engaged

Actively engaged employees, a sight that can be desired in any company. Directors in today’s companies like to see their employees actively engaged in their workplace because they are aware that employees who do their job with enthusiasm pull the whole organization forward with their energy, ideas, innovations. In times of sudden, unpredictable market movements, a modern company must be able to adapt to changes almost as soon as they occur because otherwise, the pressure of global competition can push them out of the market at high speed. In order for a modern company to be ready to face such market changes or even change market conditions with its innovations and stand out from the competition, it is necessary to have as many qualities, actively engaged employees in its ranks as possible.

Contrary to this group of employees, there is also a part of the workforce that considers their coming to work exclusively an obligation and work as much as is enough to justify their presence at the workplace. To the leader of a modern organization, such employees can act as a burden for the entire company, because by not engaging in the workplace, they can work exactly against the interests of the company in which they are employed.

In addition to these two groups of employees, there is also a group of employees who do not belong to either group but are somewhere between active engagement at work and complete mental absence. This group of employees is of special interest to today’s managers because it is easier to encourage people from this group and convert them into a group of actively engaged workers.

Most of the actively engaged employees are located within organizations that encourage two-way communication, allow access to up-to-date information about the organization, and allow people to freely express their ideas. This data suggests that the key principle in designing business space must be the creation of space for various purposes. Space for individual and group work, places for stationary and mobile employees, as well as clearly specifying the level of autonomy that would enable employees to make decisions on the most efficient way to perform their work tasks.

10. New culture of leadership and motivation

It is precisely in economically uncertain times that greater confidence in employee engagement is needed than ever before. It must penetrate to the middle management level. The management staff is now given the task to motivate and give space for getting used to. This transition will not be easy for everyone, among other things, because private apartments still partially lack a permanent place to work, so people use, for example, their kitchen table to work from home. But even if there are technical conditions today, private and family life is not always possible.

Clearly distinguish, for example, when a child can no longer be in kindergarten and when he or she has to be brought home. The employer should offer employees more flexibility to do so.

When their job is always reduced to the same job or when the job is at one point, it starts to suffocate the employees. The same job, the same position, without any indication or chance for advancement, can demotivate even the most ambitious.

But you can turn it around! If you offer them the opportunity to advance, your employees will be motivated to work harder and be more productive.

Here’s a simple tip – instead of hiring someone new, just promote someone who is already employed by the company. This will raise the motivation and productivity of all employees in your company.

However, promotion does not always mean a raise and a new position. Promotion can also be in the form of training and courses. Motivate your employees by offering them the opportunity to develop their skills and improve their knowledge. And as a result, they will be much more enthusiastic about working for you.

Conclusions

Modern theories emphasize autonomy and perfection in what we do as important motivating factors. If you give the employee a clear, challenging, and achievable goal and optimal working conditions (in this case at least technological), support him in mastering the necessary knowledge and skills, and show that you appreciate his commitment, there is a good chance that this approach will result in the greater engagement at work. Although supervision and sometimes control is a necessary part of the business process, control does not help internal motivation in intellectual and creative jobs. Micromanagement, on the other hand, will certainly reduce motivation and performance, because it disturbs the worker, disrupts the work process, and does not contribute to the goal. Some managers approach micromanagement more often just when employees work from home, because, as a result of their distrust of people, they have trouble understanding the concept of autonomy and intrinsic motivation.

Although the crisis situation is characterized by heightened uncertainty, we should not forget that we have been living in a rapidly changing and uncertain environment for many years. Remember one difficult and challenging situation for you, and what it was that you did and that helped you overcome it. You will become aware of your strengths that you already have (which we often forget) and which will help you in this situation as well. Acceptance of uncertainties is practiced and developed. Let’s start with small steps, for example through a new experience for you (food, music, people …) and practice regularly. The result will not be missed, and every new change and adaptation will be faster and more effective for us.

This article tells about flexibility at workplace, shows examples of flexibility at work, takes a look at its advantages and gives couple of advices on how to apply it to your business. If you are familiar with all of it, probably, you do not need to read it further. But as long as you are going to get closer with notion of flexibility, then welcome to our outlook at this topic.

In a nutshell, flexibility is awesome. And I am saying it as a person who has tried it in practice. Being a freelancer you can stay at home and start your day at any comfortable time. You can do your tasks while playing with a cat on a break. Isn`t that wonderful? However, let`s present a little bit more practical side for businesses and workforce.

What is workplace flexibility?

Workplace flexibility is a strategic reaction to the change in situation and expectations. The focus is on ability of companies and their staff to adapt to new environment with regard to the peculiarities of the working process. It helps to meet goals of employees and employer leaving them satisfied with working conditions. At the same time, it positively affects productivity.

People are different, so are their preferences of working process. Some need total control and well-structured tasks, while others require freedom to do their job. Flexibility at the workplace is all about finding a compromise while taking into account current circumstances.

Modern technology has made flexible work more accessible, and more and more companies are starting to implement it. The demand for gig economy jobs (closely related to flexible jobs that include self-employment, contract and freelance jobs, and other types of non-paid jobs) has also increased markedly.

But just flexible management definition is not enough to make it appealing for everyone. So let`s continue diving into this even deeper.

Main goals of flexibility at workplace

Let’s take a look at some of the goals and outcomes of implementing this work model in your workplace:

Organization-wide accountability and adaptability

When team members are not constrained by location or predetermined working hours, the entire organization can be more flexible and responsive to changing needs and situations. For example, if employees are located in multiple time zones, it becomes much easier to provide customers with additional support hours or work around the clock to meet tight deadlines.

Employee productivity and job satisfaction

When productivity is measured based on activity and outcome, rather than a specific number of (potentially unproductive) hours or being at a desk at a specific time, employees are encouraged to spend their time on important tasks that imply company`s goals by optimizing their schedules in alignment with the times when their personal productivity and energy are at their peak.

Research has shown that telecommuting or independent workers are more productive and happier than their office colleagues. Fewer hours spent at work us also the main method of preventing employee burnout. And when employees are more responsive and motivated to work, it creates a feedback loop that goes back to the goal of improving the agility and productivity of the organization. When employees achieve great results, the whole company wins.

As the Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion (ENEI) explains in its Agile Working Guide, “When workers are given autonomy and freedom to choose where and when to work, while their work can be done, it creates a culture that removes artificial measures of success such as time and attendance, and focuses on results and performance”. ENEI also notes that while not every position is suitable for complete flexibility, in almost all types of work, flexibility can be integrated into one of four categories: time, location, role, or source.

Examples of flexibility at work

First of all, flexibility is obviously can be interpreted in various frames. There are many ways how workplace flexibility may be shown. For instance, it is expressed by the individual attitude toward work in general. From the managers` perspective it can be:

For the workers it is also associated with ability to develop hard and soft skills:

Companies with flexible management

We see that business is constantly adjusting to the needs of market and people. Here are companies which have already implemented flexible working policy:

Google shifts to the flexible work week and hybrid model.

Colgate-Palmolive has a strong policy focused on maintaining good work-life balance

Convergys celebrates telecommuting and flexible schedule.

Agilent technologies provide flexible working time and location, and has a wide range of bonuses for employees.

American express offers many work options (full-time, remote, contract, etc.) including WFH model.

Dell encourages its employees to work in the most suitable conditions since 2009. 60% of the staff uses flexible work arrangement.

GitHub gives a chance to work remotely, as well as unlimited paid time off.

UpWork is a fan of remote work philosophy.

And there are many more companies who are supporting some kind of flexibility at workplace.

Maneuverability in the workplace provides significant and distinct benefits to both businesses and individuals. Let’s take a quick look at some of them.

Benefits for flexible employers

Stability of staff

The location-independent work model also helps to retain employees. Employees who need to relocate do not have to leave the company or request a transfer. They just continue their work as usual, from wherever they like.

Improving staff efficiency and productivity

As mentioned earlier, research confirms that workers who have flexibility in their work simply perform better than those who do not. Engagement of employees is growing, too. It happens thanks to the fact that workers have less stress and more energy to be dedicated to their work.

The most appealing for employees

There will not be deficiency in people for a vacant position. It increases ability to attract and retain highly skilled workforce. There is an interest and growing demand for flexible working arrangements. With remote consulting, freelancing or completely remote work becoming more common, highly skilled professionals are increasingly looking for flexibility. Companies that do not provide these opportunities run the risk of being left without the best talent.

Wider pool of cadres

Flexibility attracts more talented workers. Therefore, diversity is improved. To put it simple it means unlimited source of talent. Some fast-growing knowledge-based sectors such as the tech industry are experiencing unprecedented talent shortages. Much of this problem stems from long-term hiring practices that limit their search for qualified candidates in a particular city or region. Moving to global search solves this problem.

Easier retention process

Employee retention leads to expenses and is probably the most challenging for employers. Finding a replacement for the left individual may cost up to 2 times of the employee’s annual salary.

Office space reorganization

When employees do not spend all of their time onsite due to preference toward other working options, office space is not fully occupied. And then company is able to rethink the usage of workplace. No matter if this means moving to a new smaller building or co-working space, or sharing the space with other company. It helps to save money, too.

Cost-efficient

Cost savings might be the most attractive thing to gain. A completely remote workforce means no office space or equipment costs and the ability to hire from areas where competitive salaries are lower for equally qualified candidates. Global Workplace Analytics reports that midsize businesses will save $ 11,000 per person a year if employees who can work at least partially remotely work from home half the time. In addition, a survey of 1,500 technology professionals showed that 37% are willing to cut their salaries by 10% if they can work from home.

The ability of the company to work around the clock

Having staff in several locations with different working hours gives businesses the ability to be flexible, quickly accommodate to sudden or unusual situations, or adapt to demanding projects or clients. So there is always someone to do the job, which expands time and opportunities for business.

But why is it good for staff?

Benefits for flexible employees

Flexible arrangement of work makes employees happy. And this is highly connected with previous points for employers. Everyone would accept an opportunity to have more freedom at work, whether in matter of location, time or responsibilities. Younger generation of workers is particularly eager to be in control over their lives. 76% of millennials admitted that they would agree with salary cut if they had a chance to choose their work hours. Another survey showed that 80% of respondents confirmed that ability to have a flexible schedule is directly influence their loyalty to the company.

Better life-work balance

This may apply not only to workers who have more control over how they spend their time, but also to so called “work life integration”. This expression confirms that modern technology has blurred the boundaries between work and personal time. Many employees interested in flexible work view this positively. They are free to work in the evenings or on weekends if they are more comfortable and able to prioritize work over social and personal issues. It is also means more time for important life aspects like family, health, hobbies. As a result you get a positive influence on overall wellbeing. Care giving, sick leaves are significant aspect of flexible policy. In case of relatives` illness or child care flexible management meets employee needs and provide additional time and payment.

Reduced financial losses on commuting

It seems obvious, but still necessary to mention. Flexible work allows you to spend less time in transport which equals less money spend on gas \ tickets.

Less distractions

Everyone has their own requirements to be concentrated and efficient. And this is possible to do when you define your working conditions yourself.

Chance to choose your high time

Night owls are finally able to be themselves. You may even fulfill your cyber-punk fantasy of working in neon basement till the morning. Do whatever you want, just preserve productivity level and meet deadlines.

Self-determination

In many traditional work environments, the freedom to choose when and where you work (that is not tied to the office) is usually given to managers and other senior positions. A flexible environment benefits all levels of the organization. Being responsible for your own work affect attitude to what you are doing at your working time.

Improved job satisfaction and personal productivity

Employees who are in self-control over their work situations are more likely to invest fully in their projects. With the power to choose when, where, and how you work most productively, you gain additional motivation. It allows you to minimize distractions and use your skills to the best of your ability. Again, millennials with their desire to achieve a disclosure of personal potential at work are focused on how job can help them with that goal. If current position matches individual needs, an employee is ready to fully commit to it.

Additional advantages

Moreover, it can be good for our planet.

Less pollution

Less commuting leads to less CO2 emission. Additionally, there is less litter which appears in during office routine, i.e. disposables, paper, etc.

Less resources consumed

No need to waste so much energy when office is half empty. There is less electricity, water and other resources used. Digitalization also is a good way to cut down hard copies.

Consciousness

It gives chance to focus on what really matters and live more conscious life. That is great for human race.

Have you found another benefit? Share it with us.

What does it all mean?

One of the key points of implementing the flexible model is that it is a win-win situation for everyone. This way of working offers significant benefits to both employees and employers. But it’s not just about making people’s personal or professional lives more enjoyable. Flexible working model can achieve results that are much more difficult, if not impossible, in a traditional working environment.

The main feature of flexible work is that it is mutually beneficial for both employees and employers. However, both sides will have to make some compromises. Employers may need to relax some entrenched HR policies, such as strict working hours and overtime regulations. They will also need to invest in some systems and technologies that will allow the team to work remotely, which is necessary for a flexible work environment and develop a strategy for effective communication and collaboration. And workers may have to adjust to increased responsibility and self-regulation. It requires thorough attention from management and staff. Cooperation for big goals achievement is a core for this.

Types of flexibility in the workplace

Basically, with a flexibility at the workplace everyone is keeping in mind company`s main goals and objectives rather than rigid set of tasks meant for the position and limited to office time and place. Here are different ways how flexibility can be achieved:

Speaking about workplace flexibility there is no way to omit schedule flexibility. It appears the most spread method to loosen fixed ideas of labor. Flexible working hours or even allowing remote work for several days a week is not a future anymore, it is reality we see more and more often.

How to manage flexibility in the workplace

There are several steps to follow if you ought to deal with flexible workplace:

Challenges of flexible management style

Moving away from rigid working style brings many positive things. Nevertheless, it may arise a few issues.

Conclusions

Flexible management style grows its popularity. In this working environment, flexibility is the norm rather than the exception. Maximum flexibility and minimum constraints, allow workers to choose when, where, and how they want to work to meet individual and organizational goals. And it seems like latitude actually might be a key to successful work. Rather than simply giving employees control over the timing and location of their work it also assumes work autonomy. But that doesn’t mean a chaotic work environment or a lack of management supervision. The goals of organizations in adopting flexible work are to create a more agile, productive and efficient organization that improves business productivity and increases customer satisfaction. Experience shows that by giving their employees the choice of where and when to work, companies increase productivity and provide better service by choosing the way of working that suits them best.

Before, employers have not talked so much about how flexible management style improves profits. And even employees claim to be more productive in such environment. New technologies lie in the foundation for this shift. This proves that we have entered an era where work is what you do, not where you go.

During pandemic many employees were obliged to work from home. And many of them managed to succeed in it. But human connection is one of basic needs so completely remote work is not a cure. At the same time it is hard to work on the background of a constantly distracting family. The classic “if you’re at home, then you don’t work” with all that it implies: household chores, constant requests and other very important things that need to be done right now. But even without household members, you have to spend time at least on preparing lunch, dinner and snacks. Return to a good old office might be the way out. But if that is impossible a coworking space is a comfortable spot where no one interferes and there is everything you need to work productively. And it will cost less than coffee shops or cafes. Though, we need to know a little more before trying. And what exactly is the future of coworking spaces?

Coworking timeline

It all began in 1995 when a German hacker created a space shared with other 17 computer engineers to exchange ideas and meet like-minded people.

In 1999 Bernard DeKoven, a video game designer, introduced term of “coworking”, but rather as a way of work than space sharing.

In 2002, two Austrian entrepreneurs set up a hub in old factory premise with professionals from different field gathered to work at the same location.

Finally, in 2005 Brad Neuberg presented coworking space in San Francisco as we know it today.

The popularity of this format began to grow for several reasons:

– flexibility – easy to move in and out in a short period of time;

– increased demand from small teams (from 3 to 20 people);

– an increase in the number of small events – lectures, meetings, trainings;

– a limited number of high-quality locations of “classic” offices;

– check-in speed – on average, it is no more than two days from the date of registration of the application;

– the popularity of the “sharing” economy among the new generation of entrepreneurs.

What is it like to use a coworking?

Coworking is a huge work and educational space where events are constantly taking place. This gives employees the opportunity to develop in the profession and related fields, while saving the manager from spending on third-party trainings and courses. And you do not feel obliged, because listening to an interesting lecture in a beautiful creative space with a cup of coffee is much more pleasant than spending half a day at a corporate seminar held in a strictly formal setting. It turns out that specialists are always aware of trends and new technologies in their field and can implement them in a timely manner. Working in a single space, joint dinners, going for coffee and going to events sooner or later flow into constant communication, friendship or partnership.

In the office the manager is often in a separate closed room and rarely takes part in the affairs of employees. And if an entrepreneur has several projects, then he has to constantly travel to meetings or switch between different offices. Coworking, on the other hand, unites everyone in one area. The “boss-subordinate” border is being erased, everyone works as a single team, exchange ideas, and consult with each other. It is easier for the head of the company to track the processes, indicators and success of employees and to be aware of everything, if necessary.

It is much more profitable to rent a space in a coworking area, where everything is already included: from the Internet and coolers to cleaning and an office manager. Perfect for a new company or startup that is equally likely to take off or close in a couple of months. You can completely immerse yourself in work, coworking takes care of all the organizational issues. At any time, you can expand or leave without losing money – nothing restrains you, because you have no obligations in front of a landlord.

Common benefits of coworking spaces

To make it more structural there are several features of coworking, which make them preferable:

The need for communication

Coworking has an office bustle. Someone is on the phone, someone is holding meetings or brainstorming sessions, and someone is discussing the past weekend. After several years of working at home alone and in silence, remote workers come to the coworking space, primarily for communication.

Experience exchange

Often people of similar / identical professions gather in coworking spaces. Yes, they can work for different companies, but nothing prevents them from exchanging experience.

A sense of the team

In small coworking spaces, people get used to each other. And it feels like you are working in one team, with no bosses or leadership, only colleagues.

Mobility

However, the main advantage of coworking spaces is mobility. So, when additional employees are recruited for a project in a short time, there is no need to look for a new office or premises – the coworking space will be an excellent alternative to the classic rental.

In coworking spaces, compared to classic office spaces, there is a great deal of variability in the choice of services and the possibility of reducing costs due to the fact that only the space is rented and only for the time that you really need.

Here you can get the service of an unfixed workplace, when the first applicant gets a free seat, or you can rent a permanent working time at a convenient time. The advantage of coworking spaces is precisely the opportunity not to bear the full cost of renting an office, but to use only the minimum required area.

Coworking spaces also have their downsides. Among them are:

  1. high cost for large teams.
  2. there is less privacy and confidentiality compared to a classic office.
  3. stereotype of “prestige” of your own separate office.

Why big companies use coworking

Among the main reasons why big business chooses coworking spaces:

  1. Delegation – coworking takes over the maintenance of the space, selection of location, design, procurement, construction and finishing works.
  2. Financial savings – there is no need to spend a large amount at once on repairs and rent.
  3. Shortage of premises with good location.

Large companies have appreciated the beauty of agile offices and creative workspaces where motivated employees enjoy working and growing. Coworking spaces in different cities and countries are a great alternative to branches when scaling up and entering foreign markets. And a convenient way to bring a remote team scattered around the world to a unified schedule and well-coordinated processes. We recommend trying this format for large companies, aspiring entrepreneurs, freelancers, startups and creative people. The rhythm of life will become more dynamic, the days brighter, meetings, ideas and events, and work more productive. Many people dream of harmoniously combining work and personal life, achieving success in both areas, and coworking is a chance to finally find a balance.

Thematic coworking spaces in the USA and Europe

Just so you know, the global market also offers coworking based on activity fields to simplify collaboration.

For example, Green Spaces in Denver, designed for charitable, community or environmental projects.

Designers, journalists and students prefer to create at The Coop in Chicago. There is a personal chef and thematic lectures and exhibitions.

RocketSpace is an elite business accelerator for IT startups in a coworking format.

English TechHub is another startup accelerator working in partnership with Google, Adobe and ZenDesk. The coworking space often hosts events where investors get acquainted with projects

There are also separate coworking spaces in the US and Europe for writers, designers and women entrepreneurs. Plunging into the environment of like-minded people working in the same field, you grow rapidly, immediately learn about new trends and mechanics in your industry and always have the latest information. Working among professionals and successful projects means always being one step ahead of colleagues, closed at home or in offices and rarely spending time on training and professional development.

What is the future of offices and coworking spaces?

Even before the pandemic, we saw a trend towards the development of a sharing culture in various spheres of life. Coworking spaces are part of this trend. The pandemic has led to the fact that many of those who had not previously considered the format of teleworking for themselves, changed their attitude towards telecommuting. And those who found themselves in self-isolation with their loved ones realized the need for a separate comfortable workplace, because being 24 hours a day in one confined space without the ability to change the landscape is quite exhausting psychologically. In addition, not everyone has the opportunity to create an isolated workplace in an apartment. Having a coworking space near the house could be the best solution in such a situation.

And since the role and importance of freelancers and startups in the global economy is growing every year (this trend is already obvious), their preferences that become a priority. Therefore, the evolution of coworking spaces will continue to meet the growing level of customer demand. Where it will lead is very breathtaking to observe. But offices will continue to exist, at least in the nearest future.

In addition, office costs can be optimized so that its monthly rent will be cheaper than in coworking spaces. For example, by application of hybrid model companies have already managed to save tons of money while preserving the office space. Yes, this is definitely a great way to work remotely, and its audience will only grow. But we would be extremely careful in predicting an avalanche-like growth in demand for them and especially, total extinction of old offices. However, future of shared office spaces looks pretty bright.

Impact of the pandemic

In fact, a coworking space is an office with a service and more comfortable rental conditions, therefore it is sometimes also called a service office. Flexibility here – in the special conditions of the lease agreement, which allow you to easily reduce or increase the area, prematurely terminate the lease term. The office adapts to the needs of the business. In the face of uncertainty and crisis, this flexibility generates great demand from tenants.

Of course, the issue of health safety is very relevant now. There is, for sure, the risk of catching an infection, both in the office and in the coworking space. Another thing is that you can try to reduce these risks. Cleaning the area and sanitizing equipment is especially vital. If all the preventative measures are applied the health threat is lower.

The epidemiological situation, quarantine measures and economic consequences forced businesses to rationally approach spending. Some companies moved to smaller offices, others left offices for something more flexible or went fully remote. The stabilization of the epidemiological situation, the restoration of business activity and the return to work will contribute to the popularity of flexible offices. Basically, having gained experience in remote work, many companies will not abandon it and will move to a flexible hybrid work format and employee rotation. This option will provoke an increase in interest in flexible venues, both in business centers and in coworking spaces around the house.

This format was in demand even before the pandemic, but in the current realities, the demand for them will increase significantly. Many large companies, having successfully reorganized to remote work during the period of self-isolation, are seriously thinking about reducing the leased office space and transferring their divisions to permanent remote work, work in coworking spaces, in order to reduce rental costs. Even though we cannot predict precisely the future of coworking spaces after Covid-19, we guess they will have a giant impact in business world.

Predicts how the new offices and coworking will look like

As for coworking spaces, they will grow more and more taking more leading positions for business owners and individuals. Looking at current trends, we may assume luxurious and comfortable interior with everything necessary for an efficient work with consideration of flexibility. Though, some will offer industry-specific spaces.

The rest of the coworking space will be a cozier version of the office. There is no dress code, passes, coffee and smoke breaks on schedule and fines. You can come there in a comfortable sweater and sneakers, sit next to your beloved cat, and put a thermos with tea and a huge packet of cookies on the table next to your laptop. You can work on a sofa, in an armchair, on the terrace or by the pool (awesome if you have a chance to), and hold planning meetings, appointments or negotiations in a specially equipped meeting room. At any time you can have lunch, drink coffee or take a walk to restart your brain.

Even today around coworking spaces usually grow real townships, where you can spend the whole day. In the morning there is work area, where you periodically change locations. After work you can go to a lecture, event or party and immediately have dinner, and then have a couple of cocktails at the bar. And, of course, the atmosphere. In terms of atmosphere, coworking leaves the office, the house, the cafe, and even the Starbucks far behind. Most likely, developers will proceed to emphasize this.

In recent The Spaces article design and technology experts have shared their predictions on the future of offices. Among the most realistic tendencies are:

Green and sustainable

Due to climate change worries a lot of companies will be more supportive into environmental initiatives. It is not only about alternative energy, but also about balance with nature.

Comfortable to work in

This consists of several points: first, more equality at the workplace; second, satisfaction of life needs by provision of access to gyms, and social life and even spots to rest.

Technological advancement

From the automation of many processes and to the smart buildings, technology will keep on improving our workflow in the future.

Flexibility of place and people

Distributed workforce and rational space usage will serve companies to gain the maximum efficiency. Limitations will be blurred.

We also need to mention influence of Coronavirus. Coworking spaces were popular before the health crisis. They had and still have their own core of consumers who will not refuse such a service even after all restrictions have been gone. After the boom and the closure of some coworking spaces, the market grew steadily. As many people work in coworking spaces as in offices, and sometimes even more, from an epidemiological point of view, there are no advantages here. And the rotation of visitors in them is greater. So whatever location is used, the focus should be on safety measures.

Why do we still need offices?

There are companies which are not ready to give up on traditional offices for many reasons. Some businesses need a specific building which will represent their brand. Or they associate office with high status. For others there is no point in coworking space as all employees need to be onsite. Or team is stable enough to rent an office to work in because they simply do not need to contact with other professionals. For some companies coworking is not suitable. The specifics of the business activities of some companies do not allow them to switch to a flexible form of work. For example, banks. Also, companies which do not need coworking, are those which need to constantly communicate with clients personally.

Anyway, office still has several important benefits. The main advantage is that you don’t have to share your office with anyone. An employee of the company has no problems with access to the meeting room. You can easily avoid background noise. There is no need to constantly hide your own ideas / developments from prying eyes.

Another advantage of the office is the maximum guarantee of confidentiality. It is extremely important if the main value of the company is intellectual property. Other positive aspects of an office over a coworking space:

  1. Convenient control of personnel activities (discipline is above all).
  2. Corporate cohesion.
  3. The ability to set your own rules for using the workspace for employees.

Some still prefer offices as a fixed place to work in with colleagues from the same organization. Offices are necessary for real-life meetings and socializing. Additionally not everyone wants to pay for coworking from own pocket.

What do the statistics say?

As we witnessing the influence of Coronavirus in many areas lets divide our data into pre-Covid-19 and now.

On January 2020 it was estimated over 3 million coworkers globally. 44% per cent of which are women.

Asia-Pacific region possessed the biggest amount of coworking spaces (more than 11,000). China planned to have over 5,000 coworking spaces by 2022.

When it comes to remote employees, some people still consider them as freelancers temporary working for a company. However, statistics shows that 28% of individual respondents in coworkings are employed for the same company more than 10 years. That reflects quite a high level of loyalty for workers who seems to be flexible and independent.

By 2020 50% of big companies thought to have coworking spaces. Probably, because 90% of employees are happier to work there and 84% even reported to be more productive.

64% have managed to finish their tasks on time while being in coworking spaces.

In 2019 it was forecasted that the annual growth of coworking spaces development would be 20%.

Today according to Coworking resources annual growth rate from 2021 is likely to be 21.4%. Approximately 5 million people will be working in flexible workplaces by 2024.

The rest of indicators keep on increasing. This means that we have adapted to the situation and coworking is definitely here to stay.

Conclusion

Well, we can say that coworking and office have their own pros / cons. The company must independently decide which is better. If this does not work, then you need to consult with specialists. Anyway both office and coworking spaces are evolving and offer better solutions for your business. And both of them tend to focus on flexibility required by modern world. Unable to tell an exact future of coworking we claim it to be promising.

The rapid growth of companies, combined with the pandemic, and the ever-increasing volume and responsibility of work create failure on a private level. All these external forces have direct effects to our body and our psyche as chronic stress and as such can create burnout syndrome. This syndrome is a consequence of constant exposure to dissatisfaction (workplace and environment, business or family roles) that we do not solve but settle, and then it all accumulates in the feeling that we are losing control over our own lives. It is manifested by drastic changes in mood and behavior that are not characteristic of us, but also by changes in physical parameters, which can be alarming.

Burnout is a progressive loss of idealism, energy, and meaningfulness of one’s own work as a result of frustration and stress at work. Burnout at work is not the same as fatigue. Fatigue does not include changes in attitudes toward work and behavior toward clients. Burnout does.

Whether a person will develop burnout syndrome depends on many factors, but to a large extent also on the structure of their personality. Mentally stable and strong individuals, who have trained themselves for a high level of productivity–balancing obligations and pressures, are in less danger of developing such problems, but can also catch them if they fail to maintain their psychological stability.

Symptoms

Physical symptoms

Physical symptoms – this category most often includes chronic fatigue and exhaustion, which can be a sign of some other problems, so people do not take them seriously enough. Insomnia is a symptom that, coupled with the previous two, gives the green light for taking action to remedy the situation. There are other disorders that can be individual and unequivocally indicate a problem, such as indigestion, sudden changes in body weight, various painful symptoms, reduced immunity, increased need for sedatives, cigarettes, or even alcohol.

Emotional symptoms

These are symptoms which are most difficult to believe and for this reason, we must be extremely careful and deal with them just like any other physical condition because they can be equally dangerous. Symptoms may include depression, emotional emptiness, loss of meaning in life, anxiety, loss of motivation to go to work, loss of enthusiasm, apathy, isolation, boredom, feelings of sadness and helplessness, feelings of worthlessness, loss of self-confidence, low self-esteem, and loss of strength.

Behavioural symptoms

Behavior change is certainly a consequence of some mental states, and if you notice changes that are not characteristic of you, or someone else draws your attention to them – you react. The consequence can be an even greater decline in problems and entering into a “vicious circle of problems” from which it is not easy to get out because one problem creates another (and so on). Frequent changes in behavior can include: loss of concentration, forgetfulness, explosiveness, rudeness, excessive sensitivity to external influences (e.g. noise, light, smells, and others), negative attitudes towards work, people, interpersonal conflicts, insensitivity, rigidity, constant occupation with work, family problems, divorce, the breakup of friendships, suicidal thoughts, and more.

How does the syndrome occur?

The First Phase

Idealistic enthusiasm

When you are just starting to do a job, there is positive energy, high hopes, and sometimes unrealistic expectations. You may expect a “pink reality” at work, a positive atmosphere, acceptance by colleagues, and a boss who has your back. Its maximum is perfectly fine, but it must be in line with your realistic capabilities.

The Second Phase

Stagnation

After a while, there is a collision with reality and you slowly see how things stand. After “landing”, you still love your job, and you do it, but not with the same enthusiasm. You are reminded of the existence of other interesting spheres in life, such as family, friends, advancement, professional development, and others.

The Third Phase

Frustration

This is the stage followed by a re-examination: how productive you are at doing the job? What is the point of the job you are doing? How much you are needed? And what is your purpose there? Of course, if you are already in the burnout process, the answers are positive in rare moments, which means that the degree of frustration is growing day by day.

The Fourth Phase

Apathy

Apathy is the absence of emotions. It is one of the most difficult mental states and is also one of the first very clear signs that something is wrong. It is manifested by withdrawing and avoiding people or work, as a defense against frustration. Apathetic people are completely uninterested in their work and, if that mood takes over, it can spread to other spheres of life. Such people work only to survive and, at the same time, invest very little energy and time in work, while also running away from any responsibility.

What about statistics?

  1. One survey, conducted for STADA by the Kantar Health Market Research Institute among 18,000 respondents in nine countries, shows that more than half of Europeans (55%) have experienced chronic exhaustion at work or something similar, or that they know from personal experience what are the symptoms of this problem.
  2. The employee burnout affects Russians the most (72 percent), Serbs (66 percent) and Poles (62 percent), while less than half of respondents in Spain, Italy, and Germany (49 percent), as well as in France (44 percent), faced chronic exhaustion at work.
  3. The research also showed that the majority of respondents believe that it is the employer’s duty to implement measures to preserve the health of employees in the workplace.
  4. Spring Health made a survey for 1,136 employees in the US, in which 76% said that they have burnout syndrome. 36% said that they have greater burnout when they have more responsibilities, and 23% stated that it’s because they are not paid enough for their time off.
  5. Monster’s survey conducted in July showed that around 69% of remote workers stated they experienced burnout.
  6. A March Gallup report cited that about 76% of workers experienced this syndrome at least sometimes. According to Gallup, the risk of the syndrome is increased when workers exceeded 50 working hours.
  7. 84% of employees have experienced burnout, said Deloitte in its survey. The same survey showed that almost half of respondents cited that this syndrome was the reason why they quit their job. When they were asked for reasons, 31% said that it’s because the support and recognition that they get from the company isn’t enough.
  8. Limeade’s survey showed that, in the pre-pandemic period, 42% of workers experienced burnout. The worst numbers happened, and in August that number jumped to 72%. The most stressful thing in this COVID-19 pandemic is this burnout syndrome, according to more than a third of employees.

Prevention is the best medicine

Treating this syndrome is a very difficult job because it involves a complete change of ourselves and the work environment (usually the job itself). Often, job changes mean the need to improve and sometimes we see overwork as the only solution. In fact, we are not aware of the consequences of such behavior. In essence, the one who realizes that, the best treatment for stress is preventing stress, will have much greater health in the future.

Reduced working hours are what employees need most, according to 30% of surveyed employees, who were surveyed by Spring Health. What is also stated as a good solution is to have a good manager who will be supportive (26%), a better mental health policy (24%), employer-sponsored therapy (23%), and the use of mental health applications (21%).

Since this problem is atypical in relation to some other mental states, the best and most effective medicine is prevention, which is the only one that can guarantee a cure. It, first of all, means that we know the people we work with and that we can react in time in case of need. Sometimes a simple, open conversation is all we need. Employers are also obliged to organize their work, adapting to the individual needs of workers. They could create a good atmosphere at work, make sure that the work is well distributed, be flexible in decision-making, respect other people’s opinions, provide information on the success of the work done, and organize social gatherings outside of work, to name a few.

Ask for help

The first step is to identify the source of the stress and work on resolving it. If you think you are not capable enough to do the job, try to find a way to improve or, if there is a conflict with colleagues, resolve it by talking or in the way you find most useful. Also, combine it with a healthy lifestyle – do sports. Eat healthily and regularly and practice some other activities, within and after work, that make you happy. If you are not someone who takes the initiative and such actions would create an even bigger problem, then you should get away from stress—avoid stressful situations altogether.

If neither of these two solutions is effective, or if there is no adequate solution for your situation, it would be best to turn to your superior, and if necessary – a therapist, for help. You can occasionally work overtime or beyond your means (especially if you have already trained enough for that pace). However, if you work constantly or for too long in stressful conditions, or are dissatisfied with your performance at work, you may be on your way to creating a problem for yourself.

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