‘Teleworking is here to stay’
After ten weeks of teleworking, companies are carefully welcoming their employees back at work. The question, financial newspaper De Tijd puts however, is: do we want to go back? According to a short survey among top-employers shows teleworking is here to stay.
Covid-19 has influenced our attitudes. The majority of office workers still prefer to work from home. Some because the children still are at home, others because they’re afraid of contamination, but most of them because they’re simply not allowed to commute yet.
Important employers, like the national railway, Engie, the City of Antwerp, the Flemish government, have decided to keep their staff at home. They follow the decisions of the National Safety Council. Teleworking will become ‘the new normal’.
The City of Antwerp, for instance, followed Google’s example, and already decided to keep all (2 000) employees at home until the end of the year. Facebook (48 000) and Twitter (5 000) plan to make teleworking permanent for those who want. Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, assumes the chances are real that half of the staff will work from a distance within five to ten years.
We’ll have to wait and see whether the trend will be followed by traditional business sectors. The ‘open landscape office infrastructure’ is out, anyway. The late Steve Jobs (Apple) used to promote it to bring people together on the same floor to stimulate creativity, but, according to professor industrial medicine, Lode Godderis (KU Leuven), “the actual health crisis could mean the fatal stab of this philosophy”.
Prejudices are gone
In the Flemish Radio 1 broadcast Today’s World (De Wereld Vandaag), he explained that our working environment would consist of working spaces combined with meeting rooms and flex spaces where people can gather and brainstorm. “And teleworking will fit in this outline,” he and other experts add. “People have tested it and see the advantages. Possible prejudices are gone.”
And what will happen with the 21 million square meters of office room in our country, of which 85% was left unused during the lockdown? “They will be used differently,” says Frederik Anseel, professor management of the University of New South Wales in Sydney. “The office will become a meeting space for employees, clients, suppliers, and partners. A bubbling market place and a melting pot of meetings that will become the beating heart of the company.”
Change of attitude
Several surveys show that eight to nine out of ten employees want to keep on teleworking after the corona crisis, but not fulltime. A majority thinks one day (40%) or two (44%) per week is enough.
One thing is clear, though. Teleworking is here to stay. Covid-19 forces companies to question everything: the rent of the office space, catering, seminars, business trips… Now that we’re used to webcams, we’ll no longer travel for a two-hour meeting,” concludes EY spokesperson Christophe Ballegeer.