… and how we can imagine workplaces of the future

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed how we live, socialize, and work—often in fascinating ways. While some of the adjustments have been challenging (Zoom happy hour, anyone?) others have been more well received, such as flexible working schedules.

The question remains: Which changes will revert back to pre-pandemic normal, and which are here to stay? Although we don’t have a crystal ball on hand, we can make some educated guesses. Here are just some of the ways that workplaces have adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic, and how these adaptations may inspire the workplaces of the future.

1. Remote work

Many of us began working from home at the start of the pandemic, at least some of the time. Even real estate sales began to reflect the shift, with more people moving away from cities since they didn’t need to be as close for the daily commute.

Working from home comes with mixed reviews: Although a non-existent commute and longer sleep-in can be a beautiful thing, many office workers report missing their coworkers, routines, and even work wardrobes. Some research shows that many of us are even working longer hours and experiencing burnout, as the typical 9-5 schedule has become a bit fuzzy. As it turns out, it’s not as easy to clock out at the end of the day when you’re at home. And of course, if working from home also means trying to homeschool or parent young children, it can feel downright impossible.

So what’s in store for the future? Many experts believe that a hybrid model may emerge, which might bring workers the best of both worlds.

2. Flexible schedules

Just as where we work has changed, many of us have changed when we work. In practice, flexible work hours might look like starting and ending the workday a couple hours earlier than the usual 9 to 5, but there can be endless creative arrangements.

Workers opt for flexible schedules for many reasons, such as childcare arrangements or commutes. Research has shown that the pandemic has disproportionately impacted women. As many women act as primary parents and caregivers within their families, school closures and remote learning meant that many women were forced to make tough decisions about their careers. Flexible work is one way to take steps toward greater gender equality.

Many believe that flexible work arrangements may continue, or even increase, in the future, as research has shown that it can bring about big benefits. Allowing workers flexibility is thought to increase employee recruitment, retention, productivity, and job satisfaction.

3. Sick day policies

Pre-pandemic, how many of us would try to brave through a workday even when feeling miserable? Then along came COVID-19, which changed all of that. Now, coughing and sneezing at your desk comes across as rude, not dedicated and hardworking. The sad truth is that it’s not always easy to stay home when you’re sick, as sick pay is not available to everyone. That being said, things do appear to be changing for the better, with increased paid time off for many workers occurring across the country. Time will tell whether these changes will remain, or even increase.

It’s no surprise that the pandemic has challenged us in unique ways and caused us to rethink much of what we took for granted. In some cases, these changes may actually lead us to create better working experiences for all as we move toward the “new normal.”