A year from now…

…What will the world look like?

So much has happened in 2020 that you have to wonder what the shape of the world’s going to be. One thing’s for sure – it won’t look or feel like it used to. That’s not necessarily bad in itself, just… different.

Office Environments

I think the reality is starting to set in that few people really want to go back to the pain, expense and time-waste that is the daily commute. We’ve learned that not only can we be just as productive (if not more so), we’re also continuing to find ways of improving.

There are a few distinct advantages to long-term working from home for employees:

  • It’s a money-saver (duh)
  • Daily commuting saps energy and eats time
  • It’s much easier to protect yourself in terms of exposure and hygiene
  • It’s easier to cultivate healthy eating habits when you’re not reliant on fast-food and sandwich bars.

And also some things for employers to think about:

  • Do they really want to keep paying exorbitant city-centre rent, services, rates, overheads, management, and so on?
  • Being open to a fully-remote model massively increases the pool you’re recruiting from
  • Your claim to being a people-first organisation becomes a lot more believable.

Home environments

Few of us have a dedicated WFH space. Some are a little better off with a spare-room that’s been repurposed. Then, in the domain of the folks who already worked from home occasionally, we have the dining/kitchen table brigade. And let’s not forget the poor inner-city flat-share people who are basically confined to a single room, or worse, anybody who has to sit on a sofa for hours on end with a laptop on their… well… lap. So, a good percentage of us who never planned for a serious amount of home-working now find ourselves in month eight or nine of trying to get by in a space that’s not really set up for us.

More progressive companies are working with staff to see where they can help bridge the gap. Lumbar supports can be a great help, but a decent office chair is better. External monitors are a massive productivity-enhancer, and also really useful for people with less-than-perfect vision. Sturdy desks of the right height and size will pay for themselves within a month.

So what’s going to change in the future?

Sorry, my crystal ball is in for repairs at the moment. But I’ll make a handful of predictions anyway.

  • The housing market is heading for a major shake-up.
    • With more and more companies starting to offer fully-remote roles, where a person works from has become less and less important. Why would you pay a premium to live within easy reach of a train station to get into central London, when you don’t have to go there any more? Likewise, why would you live in a city centre if there’s no need? I wonder if this will see housing prices start to level off, losing the “London premium” effect?
  • Housing design is going to change.
    • Property moguls and construction companies must already be thinking about this… new homes need somewhere to work from! Never really been a consideration before, or at best an afterthought.
    • There will be a whole new search criteria as people start considering long-term home-working: “with home office room” or for bonus points “with separate, detached office space”. And properties that offer this will attract a premium price-tag, at least until it becomes common-place.
    • Personally, I’m in the planning stages of my workshop build, and will be allocating home-working space in the plan, effectively re-designing the layout so that the home office gets priority. It means I’ll end up with smaller workshop ๐Ÿคจ or a bigger out-building ๐Ÿ‘ . And when we eventually move out, I’ll strip out the workshop area and convert it into a second office.
  • Commercial property rental will morph into something else. Of course, there will always be companies needing office space. But there’s no longer a need to host everybody in that space. I heard somebody suggest it could turn into apartments, which I guess is feasible – except who’s going to want to live there? Many of the drivers for big-city accommodation are going away.
    • As a side-issue, I wonder how the Congestion Zone income stream is affected?
  • The travel industry broke
    • Local: nobody’s travelling any more, and post-COVID numbers will see a steep drop in the number of daily commutes.
    • National: will recover to some extent, although we’ve learned to get along without it for so long now, I doubt it’ll get back near the previous levels.
    • International: again, I think business travel will be reduced down from its previous patterns. Is there really that much added value to flying halfway round the world for meetings? Holiday travel may well resume nicely, assuming we’ve got an effective and readily-available vaccine. But even then, the travel operators (e.g. the airlines) are in huge amounts of trouble, and there will be fewer players on the field.

What do you think?