‘Teleworking to stay, office hot spot for socializing’
A majority of Belgian employees want to continue teleworking after the corona crisis, and employers are also in favor. However, Skype and other video-conferencing platforms will never completely replace working together physically, and the office building is rather to become a hot spot for socializing, newspaper De Standard predicts.
‘Best invention ever’
Many people are really enthusiastic about teleworking. Teleworking is here to stay, earlier studies showed. “The best invention ever,” some say. They no longer suffer from stress to be late for the train, they can better focus, without the noise of calling colleagues.
Working from home gives them more flexibility. They can spend more time with their family, and also our mental well-being and even the environment are doing well by staying massively at home. But despite all these positive echoes, working from home had disadvantages as well.
What some call “the irritating noise and distraction” is seen as “the lack of social contact and control” by others. Some people really need to have other people around them. They miss the simple things in life, like getting a coffee and having a good chin-wag. They miss their colleagues and partly lose team spirit.
Still, a majority of employees want to continue teleworking after the crisis, several surveys show. One survey by the Ghent University among 3 800 Flemish employees shortly after the beginning of the lockdown discovered that one out of three wants to keep on teleworking more frequently in the future. This also seemed to be the case before the crisis, but then they weren’t allowed to do so by their employer.
“This restraint is a matter of habit,” explains Frederik Anseel, professor industrial psychology. “To go to the office day after day is a result of historical factors. Until some decades ago, people just had to go to where the work was.”
Today, employers are in favor. They’ve seen that it is perfectly possible. Almost half (45%) of the Belgian companies even want to continue teleworking after the corona crisis. That is what human resources company Acerta learned from a survey in April among 501 respondents.
Today, this is still the case for 60% of all jobs, especially in the industry, the catering industry, and education. The remaining 40% has growth potential for teleworking.
“These usually are jobs that can be done ‘always and everywhere’ thanks to the help of tools like Skype, Slack, or Teams,” says Jan Denys from Randstad (temporary employment). He expects teleworking to become more and more the standard among well-educated professionals.
“The corona crisis could be a turning point for teleworking,” Anseel says. “People experienced it and now have a different point of view.” The question today is: do we all have to go back to work?”
Meanwhile, many employers tend to answer ‘no’ to that question. SMEs are on the same wavelength. They all admit that teleworking will play a more important role in their organization. Some also experienced the positive side-effects of working from home.
“People have a better focus when they can coordinate their working hours with the rest of their life,” says the CEO of a small software development company, Wouter Uten. “It will be a challenge, though, to conciliate those advantages to social isolation.”
‘Working apart together’
“Working apart together will be the future,” he concludes. “Working a few days from home, and then a few days in the office to boost the team spirit.” Others are wondering whether there should be put a limit to the number of days working from home.
According to Anseel, companies will find several compromises. “The company building will probably become a meeting place to gather, take decisions, change ideas and emotions, and keep social contacts alive.”