The modified reality - the working world after Corona
The coronavirus has turned the economic world upside down and shaken it vigorously. What had been valid for decades suddenly no longer works. Empty offices, production lines, roads and airports. With falling infection figures in Germany, the economy is slowly being revived. Many are talking about a "new" reality. We rather assume a "modified" reality - as one customer aptly called it. We currently do not see a real paradigm shift, as predicted in many places. In the following you will find some hypotheses of how our office life could look like in the post-Corona era.
The acceptance of homeworking has made the breakthrough and will become a much stronger component of everyday cooperation in the future. A study by the Bavarian Research Institute for Digital Transformation shows that by the end of March, around 43 percent of those surveyed in Germany were already working from home at least occasionally. Before the crisis, this applied to only 35 percent.
The intensity also increased significantly. Currently 39 percent of those surveyed work from home several times a week. Before the crisis, this figure was just 23 percent - and only at least once a week. The approval of the employees is enormous. Only 19 percent were dissatisfied with the home office.
The hype triggered by the crisis and the experience that working from home has been successful in many companies will lead to an increased desire to work from home. It will become clear that there will be a difference between "working in crisis mode" and "normal working". In a crisis, one is more likely to accept unfortunate circumstances than in an everyday situation.
Economic and legal framework conditions as well as pragmatic solutions that enable homeworking in the new reality will therefore be defined and found. Occupational health and safety guidelines will certainly be extended to the home office, and the establishment of a home office workplace could be taken over by the employer in future.
In future, it will be a question of finding a sensible balance between office and home work. The currently inspired call of various company managers for as much home-based work as possible (at least 50:50 if not even 40:60) in order to save as much money as possible will become calmer again, as it will be noticed that not everything can be done wonderfully only at home in the long run. Many years ago, IBM switched to increased office work after they had made bad experiences with almost exclusively working from home.
A sensible balance will be based on the type of work, the work modes and the personality types within a company.
In office planning, economic savings through working from home will be specifically taken into account. In particular, areas that are standardised for highly concentrated work will be reduced in the future, as experience from the lockdown period has shown that this work can just as well be done from the home office. The same applies to telephone calls or video connections. The ratio of employees per desk will tend to be further reduced.
In future, more focus will be placed on communication areas in the offices in order to optimally support activities that cannot be carried out "remotely", such as brainstorming, design thinking or other workshop formats.
On the other hand, the size of office space will continue to be needed to comply with the new distance and security regulations. The layouts of open-plan offices, canteens and meeting rooms will also be rethought and redrawn in the future.
New forms of cooperation have already emerged before the Corona era, and will continue to establish themselves in the post-Corona era. There will be advantages for part-time employees, who can now be better integrated, as more flexible working hours and the organisation of meetings will become an integral part of everyday office life.
This flexibilisation of cooperation is also an advantage for commuters, who previously had to accept long journeys to work.
Collaboration via platforms will become the new standard. As we will increasingly work with a mix of remote and onsite, the use of platforms such as Microsoft teams will become more and more important.
In addition to technical solution approaches (tool-set), this also brings with it new competence requirements (skill-set) and a new attitude (mind-set) for all employees.
Especially for older people or companies that have so far worked little digitally and agile, this means a cultural change that should not be underestimated. In addition to investing in technology, training courses will also be offered to familiarise employees with the new technologies.
With more home office, the talent pool of potential employees will expand almost indefinitely, as the place of residence and work will play an increasingly unimportant role. Nevertheless, working from the beach will probably remain the exception for the time being. But living in Hamburg and working in Munich will become much easier with the new forms of cooperation.
This will also lead to shifts in urban-rural attractiveness, a trend that we can already see in the cities due to high property prices. The countryside will become more attractive again, as daily commuting and the stress associated with it will disappear.
The modified reality will also lead to companies increasingly using freelancers and making project-related enquiries, as technical and spatial cooperation will be much easier in the new reality. Freelancers will have easier access to the company's internal systems and can therefore be integrated more quickly.
The nature of leadership will continue to change. The days when managers justified their existence by controlling employees are finally a thing of the past.
The new leadership will be characterized not by control but by trust. Given trust, on the other hand, brings with it a high degree of self-responsibility and self-organisation on the part of the employees. Not everyone can do that.
The tasks and abilities of managers will therefore continue to change. In the future, managers will play an even greater role as goal-oriented communicators, strengthening the links to the team, integrating team members, communicating the values of the company and supporting employees in the best possible way in achieving their goals together.
Hygiene and health standards
Hygiene and health standards will become more central to the office than before. As long as no vaccine for the coronavirus is available, distance and hygiene regulations will determine our everyday life. The 1.5-metre safety distance will also be introduced in the office. Walking routes will be marked, waiting boxes will be taped in case of oncoming traffic and seating arrangements for canteens and meeting rooms will be redesigned.
Wearing mouth-nose protection masks and regularly disinfecting hands and materials in accordance with safety regulations will become a permanent feature in the modified reality, as will the plexiglass in the supermarket to protect against infection.
Many surfaces and working materials will have to be disinfected frequently. Self-disinfecting and easy to clean materials will be developed and used. In addition to the new materials, the contactless operation of devices with speech recognition or gestures will certainly continue to develop, as we are currently experiencing in contactless payment, for example.
Corona ambushed us. We do not yet know exactly HOW a modified reality will actually look like. Some scenarios were described in the article. Fact is, the virus will keep us busy for quite some time and a return to an economy as we know it from 2019 is unlikely.
But crises always offer opportunities. It is therefore the best time for companies to learn to develop resilience in order to be able to continue to act flexibly and healthily in future crises.
So the question to you is: HOW does the new reality in your company look like? How do you think things will continue? What have you already learned and do you want to keep in the post-Corona era in any case?
Feel free to write to us and tell us what other hypotheses you support. We will collect them and publish them in one of our upcoming articles.