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Navigating the Lockdown Part 3: Back to the Office…or Not?

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In the third of a series of HR-focused blogs on Navigating the Lockdown, Riverbed’s HR Director for APJ, Ravi Abbott, looks at how the necessity to work from home has had some unexpected benefits. 

As the world carefully comes out of lockdown, many of us are seeing it in a different way. Do we go back to exactly how it was before the pandemic or do we take this opportunity to embrace lasting change?

If COVID-19 has shown us one thing, it’s our ability to adapt and respond during times of crisis. Projects that would normally take years to implement were rolled out in weeks. We achieved in days what would ordinarily take months.

Simply going back to our old way of life now would be a waste of that superhuman effort. So, how can we hold on to some of these changes for good?

WFH might be here to stay

Inhabiting office space versus working from home is currently a hot topic of discussion—but it is not a new concept.

A Gartner survey of 229 organisations found that 30% of employees were already working from home at least some of the time before the pandemic. Since COVID-19, that number has jumped to 80%. The world was already moving slowly towards a distributed workforce with more and more people working remotely. The pandemic just made it happen more quickly.

Riverbed CEO, Rich McBee predicts that 15-20% of employees previously working out of an office will work remotely in the future. He believes there will be more focus on flexible working hours and ‘results based’ work, instead of the number of hours spent in an office.

Companies are rethinking their investment in office space and instead looking at ways to enable employees with ‘at-office capability’ working from anywhere.

Physical versus virtual presence

At Riverbed, we drink our own champagne. When the pandemic hit and social distancing was enforced, our people continued to work remotely with the same capacity that they had in our offices. A survey of our employees taken at around two months into lockdown showed that the majority felt they were just as, if not more, productive at home than in the office.

In today’s world, collaborative technology is improving in leaps and bounds while domestic bandwidth is no longer a bottleneck. Increasing numbers of workers are from the ‘born-digital’ generations and perfectly comfortable with newer ways of socialising and working together in teams. All of this means that physical office space is becoming less and less relevant for progressive companies.

“The ‘individual cube’ of yesterday can be your home office,” says McBee. “It’s private, you’re working, you’re concentrated. Then, when it’s time to collaborate, the human-to-human interface will be done in a pseudo-office environment.”

A glimpse into the future

Despite all this, I think that the office will still have an important role to play in our post-pandemic lives. However, this time it’s going to look and feel different. Organisations will either move towards shared space options or redesign their current office layouts to allow for more collaboration and socialisation. Cubicles and closed offices will be a thing of the past.

Here at Riverbed, it’s a fundamental commitment to our people that we’ll balance the extraordinary work we do with their lives. Work life after lockdown may just be another way in which we can fulfill that promise to the exceptional people who work for us.

If you’d like to learn more about working at Riverbed, including current roles, visit our website.

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