How the COVID vaccine will impact WFH: Will we ever go back to the office?

The recent development and introduction of several COVID vaccines has employers thinking about making a return to the office. Types of work that have been able to continue operations over the year are approaching ten months of remote working, but not without challenge.

Despite initial struggles and adjustments, it’s not looking like we’ll ever see a full 9-5 week at the office again. But what does this mean for our return to work?

The ‘Future of Jobs’ Report

The World Economic Forum’s October 2020 report details all types of workers have adapted to modified work practices. WFH requires unfamiliar types of resilience and up-skilling, and has come with challenges unforeseen in a pre-COVID, office-based environment. Digital access, living circumstances, and well-being are now everyday considerations for both businesses and employees.

78% of company leaders are concerned that remote working negatively affects workers’ productivity – many were hoping this vaccine will get us back to ‘normal’.

The vaccine, herd immunity, and hesitancy

However, the speed at which the vaccine has come into effect has called for volatile response. “Vaccine hesitancy” halts plans to return to office-based work. Diverging attitudes will impact the way businesses re-introduce their workers back into the office.

A hybrid way of working

In many ways, COVID has pushed the world to make advancements. A new, hybrid way of working has evolved at a far greater pace than any businesses expected. Employees are only expected in the office a couple of days a week, and some work completely remotely. We’ve seen a need to develop online platforms like Connectr to improve digital delivery and strengthen a sense of belonging in a world that can be all too isolating.

Successful evolution of day-to-day digitalisation in tandem with varying feelings about the vaccine mean WFH could carry on well into 2021. Even when the vaccine is widely available, companies will be in the tricky position of assessing mandatory vaccination. Not only would this heighten employee conflict and have potential human rights implications, a poll by the Vaccine Confidence Project found that it may have an effect on people’s likeliness to get vaccinated. The poll showed that every respondent wouldn’t be as likely to welcome the vaccine if employers commanded it.

The end of the 9-5?

WFH definitely has both pros and cons. There’s a flexibility in remote working that can morph into undefined start/end times and lack of separation between our labour and leisure time.

Misunderstandings via communications like email are common, too. To combat this, companies have encouraged employees to catch-up more regularly, and undertake programmes such as mentoring/contributing in forums. It’s key to create an even stronger sense of belonging in a period that can be all too isolating.

Regardless, it looks like mass scale hybrid working is the new normal for now. With no reason to return to the office full-time and uncertainty about the future of the vaccine, it looks like we’ll be at home for a while longer. Gerard Grech, CEO of Tech Nation, wonders if we’ll go back at all:

“There’s no real going back to normal. The pandemic has given us an opportunity to rethink how we work and why.”

If you’d like to chat further around how to engage, empower and retain your remote workforce, get in touch.