Future of Work

The New Normal will be mainly remote.

The New Normal will be characterized by a smart mix of remote and office work. The location choice on a given day will be determined by the nature of the tasks at hand. In the future, we will work at the place at which our well-being and productivity is highest. Our analysis shows that 50% less people will be physically present at the office in the years to come.

COVID-19 changed the lives fundamentally. Business leaders were confronted with the unprecedented challenge of creating completely new ways of working practically overnight. The old normal, in which people worked and collaborated in the static surrounding of an office, vanished within just a few days in March 2020. Before that, a mere average of 20% of knowledge workers in indirect business functions such as finance & controlling, human resources, IT, purchasing, marketing and research & development had been working remotely.

What followed in its footsteps was nothing short of surprising. Suspected productivity slumps, caused by an alleged lack of managerial control, hardly ever occurred. Instead, many companies now report much more effective and efficient collaboration, quicker sharing of information, more productive (online) meetings through modern software solutions, and, not least, an improved work experience on the part of employees.

One day the pandemic will be over. But what will the New Normal look like? Obviously, returning to old ways of working is out of the question. The positive effects on productivity would be ruined, and many employees demotivated as their self-determined work-life-balance they have come to appreciate over the last year would take a bad hit. Our analysis forecasts that 60% will work remotely – so the New Normal will mainly take place at locations other than the office.

In fact, COVID-19 has tremendously changed our attitude towards “the office”:

  • The majority of us will only go to the office when the return on invest is high
  • Managers that force employees back to the office will lose their high performers
  • Offices have to become “people magnets” – a place where employees want to be

Now is the time to understand the New Normal as a strategic element for future business success. In addition to maintaining the gains in productivity and work-life-balance that have resulted from the more self-determined workstyles of the pandemic, companies will increase their employer attractiveness, save running costs and office space and, not least, reduce their carbon footprint significantly, as the commute of employees and travel to onsite meetings become the exception, not the rule.

Given the relevance of this, it is clear that many CEOs and their teams are now placing a high priority on defining the future of work strategy. Foresighted business leaders are focusing on three strategic issues:

  • Empowering remote high-performance collaboration
  • Adjusting business processes and procedures
  • Redesigning the office footprint

The months ahead are a window of opportunity. Organizations can elevate the way of working and collaboration to a new level by combining the old normal and the COVID-19 reality in a smart way, thereby further enhancing workforce motivation and productivity. In addition, with less people at the office, real estate cost-savings can be realized in the mid to long term.

It is now up to today’s business leaders to imagine and shape the New Normal for their organization, so that “the day after” will set the course for a successful future and be followed by many, many perfect days at work for all.