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COVID-19: Are offices a thing of the past?

The COVID-19 outbreak of 2020 has caused a devastating effect on the economy. Millions of people have either temporarily or permanently lost their jobs, being forced to apply for unemployment benefits. Yet some people have been lucky enough during these extremely challenging times to work from home thanks to the modern wonder that is the internet.

Lawyer, accountants, editors… basically anyone who previously held an office job involving a computer has been able to continue their hard work from home. It may not have been easy to adjust at first but it has kept many employees busy at home during this era of low productivity, allowing them an income during a time when this concept is a privilege many have be stripped of.

Now as the lockdown eases companies are preparing for the “new normal” future. Businesses are working hard on drawing up safety regulation protocols to ensure all employees respect social distancing and hygiene rules. Experts recommend that large companies gradually reincorporate their staff back into the workspace in stages depending on the evolution of the pandemic.

So the question is: Will the office become a thing of the past? Experts are saying that capacity in the workplace will be reduced by between 30 and 50% for some businesses, meaning that they can save money on large office space and have a portion of their employees work from home permanently, a convenience for some and a hassle for others.

Working from home and carrying out all business online is a very new and daunting concept for most, as our generation is still the first to have internet and many people still don’t trust its reliability one hundred percent. The upside of being able to work from home this year is that companies are still able to do business and generate an income even during a worldwide pandemic, but the downside is that we are going through extremely mentally challenging times, and many people miss being part of a group and a project with their coworkers.  Socializing is a basic human instinct we have unfortunately had to forfeit this year for the greater good.

For those who will be returning to an office in the near future, the average workday will not be the same as before for a very long time – if ever. Companies will have to introduce disinfection protocols to be followed by all employees, rearrange their office space to ensure social distancing rules can be complied with, and instate other health and safety measures such as staff rotation so as to reduce the amount of employees in the office at any one time, with the rest working from home when possible.

“Teleworking” has maintained productivity levels in the office sector during the pandemic, so many companies will have the time to slowly adapt to the new office world once employees start the return to the workplace instead of rushing into new projects to generate more income as soon as possible.

Many experts in Spain are recommending that teleworking be carried out until the end of the summer if possible with no sense of urgency to return to normal, and encourage companies to brainstorm and become creative by introducing new modern ways to carry out business.

In the real estate sector for example, experts predict that 360º virtual tours will be the new normal for those looking to buy a property especially with investors who aren’t necessarily interested in viewing a property in person as they only see it as an investment. The same experts have also said that if you have the available funds, this is the time to invest as real estate prices have dropped due to the pandemic but are expected to rise considerably in the next few years.

2020 is without a doubt the year of teleworking. Companies that were reluctant to modernize their business in the past have been forced into doing so just to survive, and those who already relied on the internet have surely thrived with more people having to trust in online transactions. It will be very interesting to see what the future looks like for the office world and what the teleworking-future holds.

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