Will this WFH Experiment Shape the Future of our Workplace?

Will this WFH Experiment Shape The Future of our Workplace?

The new work environment is being determined now

By: Natalya Shimanovskaya

The future of work looks a lot different now than a few weeks ago. We’re practicing social distancing and employees everywhere have been forced into remote work. The current global events are creating uncertainty in our lives — socially, health-wise, and professionally as well.

As COVID-19 forces a large-scale work from home (WFH) experiment, we can’t help but wonder if the disease will propel us into a lifestyle that would have emerged 20 years into the future when the distinctions between work, home, and in-between all dissolve.

Trends in modern society: Bring work home and vice versa

As almost anyone with a successful career will tell you, sometimes you need to bring work home. Be it evening emails or weekend work, this regular practice spurred dedicated office spaces in the home long ago. 

More and more, the lines between work and home have become ambiguous.

We’ve also seen the trend the other way: work has come to resemble home more than ever before. Employees have asked for spaces to relax and decompress. Employers continually respond and provide meditation rooms, designated nap spaces, and quiet spaces to regroup and disconnect from work.

Current trend: WFH

And today’s most popular trend among the next generation of the workforce? Work-life balance, flexibility and wellness. For many, this balance is best achieved through a work from home arrangement, aka telecommuting or remote work.

Even before COVID-19 made remote workers out of previously on-site office professionals, the calls for more remote opportunities or flexible WFH arrangements are on the rise. Ninety-nine percent of employees want the opportunity to WFH, at least part-time. 

It’s not hard to see why — collaboration tools like Slack, Zoom, and Trello create agile work environments along with the importance of work systems such as BIM (Building Information Modeling), 3D printing and AR (Augmented Reality) in the AEC industry.

Remote teams report higher productivity and increased loyalty to their companies. With WFH arrangements, individuals can avoid the rising rent and cost of living in metro areas while still having a great job. And perhaps most importantly — remote workers have the flexibility to manage their schedules for greater work-life balance and wellness. 

Some industries have answered the need for remote work with openness, while others have not. It’s no surprise that tech composes the largest percentage of remote workers according to Global Workplace Analytics.

Source: Global Workplace Analytics.com

The 44% of global organizations that still don’t allow for remote work cite concerns about:

  • Loss of employee productivity
  • Issues with miscommunication
  • Inability to effectively manage teams
  • Employee isolation

But in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, formerly remote-reticent employers haven’t had much of a choice. The stay at home order mandate has forced a massive social-professional experiment and pulled much of the modern world into it.

Not everyone can work remotely —  the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports 29% of percent of the US workforce is capable of working remotely. And these professionals are currently telecommuting whether or not the infrastructure to make remote work successful was in place before the crisis.

Despite our lack of preparedness in going remote overnight, the results are bound to reveal something about our future home and workspaces. What happens when the lines between home and work are increasingly blurred?

The Workplace of the Future: At Home?

We don’t know how long social distancing will last. There’s a lot left to be determined. But one thing that seems clear is that the remote work experiment we’ve been forced into is permanently shifting the world of work. The future is almost guaranteed to exist more fluidly between work and home. 

What will this look like? What does bringing modern work into the home mean?

  • Broadband access speeds or 5G wifi will be ubiquitous
  • A dedicated office space as part of the basics of a residential home, alongside a kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom
  • Potential for companies to invest in shared living spaces for employees to live and work from in lieu of offices

Here to Stay: Resilience and Remote Work

Will these scenarios bring people including families closer together? Cut down on the environmental impact that are so closely tied to the American commute? Will we be able to remain focused, productive, and collaborative in physical and mental spaces that lack clear delineation between work and home? 

With questions swirling in from every direction, one thing is for certain: the future will look different, and the current COVID-19 pandemic will emerge as the shaping force of this landscape. Yet this great sense of shared humanity we’re all currently experiencing will too. Our deepest hope is for a bright and unified future — at work and at home —  on the other side of it all.

How has your transition to remote work been? Do you miss the water cooler chatter, or are you finding respite in focused time along? Share your experiences below!


Effects of COVID-19 on the Construction Industry

How COVID-19 Impacts the Construction Industry

Tips to protect the wellbeing of workers and keep projects moving

The construction industry is particularly feeling the impact of the coronavirus outbreak because workers are unable to work from home and must be onsite to do their jobs. While we may not be on the frontlines of fighting the pandemic, there are many practices we can embrace to help reduce the spread of the virus, the seasonal flu, and other respiratory illnesses. First, we want to share some of the ways we’re seeing the coronavirus impact our industry. We then explore how we can help keep worker healthy, stay connected, and adapt our work to changing circumstances.

Coronavirus Impact on the Construction Industry

Some of the impacts we’re seeing include delays of materials from outside the country as well as concerns that delays from US suppliers may be next. In response, general contractors are securing materials domestically and getting them to sites as quickly as possible. Building departments in some areas are beginning to close, which could bring permitting and inspections to a halt. There is a risk that some contractors and subcontractors may suspend operations. With all these uncertainties, we know project timelines may be impacted and are working closely with our teams to create recovery plans. 

Taking care of our people is incredibly important to us at The Bridge Group. As construction continues on many projects, we've compiled some measures we can take to help keep everyone healthy and safe. This applies to workers general contractors and sub-contractors on-site and employees in the workplace.

Tips for Staying Healthy and Connected

Healthy Practices on Site

1. Ask general contractors to install additional hand-washing stations at construction sites.

2. Encourage workers to stay home if they feel sick and remind them to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then immediately discarding the tissue in the trash.

3. Ask general contractors to implement social distancing, with employees working at least six feet apart when it is safe to do so.

4. Post notices or posters at worksites reminding employees how they can protect themselves and others from respiratory illnesses. Notices can include reminders to wash hands frequently or use hand sanitizer; to work at least 6 feet apart when safely possible, and to stay home when sick. The CDC offers printable materials online.

5. Wipe down frequently-touched surfaces, such as door handles, bathrooms, railings, kitchen areas, and shared tools and machinery. Provide disinfecting wipes on-site.

Stay Connected and Adjust Project Timelines

1. Stay in close contact with general contractors to understand their concerns about employee health.

2. Discuss timeline implications with project stakeholders if construction slows, and work closely with them on the development of recovery plans. If construction comes to a halt, use the time to plan so the schedule impact can be minimized once construction picks up again.

3. As teams try to reduce travel and follow the shelter in place, we can use technology to communicate and collaborate. Facetime and photography allow architects and stakeholders to monitor progress and reduce concerns of remediation measures later on. We can eliminate in-person meetings by taking advantage of video conferencing and team collaboration tools. Apps and cloud-based tools like Zoom, Google Suite, Trello, Asana, Slack, Jira and Microsoft Teams are all ideal.

In these unprecedented times, we’re all learning how we can continue to safely work together, whether in an office, at home, or on a construction site. We’d love to hear your ideas. How have you seen the coronavirus affect the construction industry or impacted your client projects? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.