Connected workplace

The great office exodus: Is working from home here to stay?

- January 17, 2022 3 MIN READ

Since early 2020, businesses have had to navigate difficult conditions never before imagined in order to survive. Being able to quickly adapt to the climate of uncertainty has heralded new work practices, which have enabled businesses to continue to trade regardless of what restrictions are impacting various locations, writes Ingrid Bayer, Founder of the VA Institute.

By far the biggest change we have seen play out is the increasing number of staff working from their own home offices.

This is vastly different to traditional business practices pre-COVID, where working from home was a luxury only afforded to enterprising self-employed freelancers and a very small minority of employees.

With the added bonus of easily accessible cloud-based technology that supports virtual work practices, a ‘new normal’ set in. With it came the realisation for many employees that, just maybe, the work-life balance they had craved was actually within reach.

The great office exodus

In the last few months of 2021, a lot of businesses began to plan for their employees to resume working from the office. But as it turns out, not everyone was as enthusiastic as one might imagine.

Having worked from the comfort of home to a large degree for the previous 18 months, employees had accepted (and in some cases embraced) this new way of working. And with the workday commute reduced to the few seconds it took to walk from the living room to the home office, it’s not surprising.

In my business as a Virtual Assistant mentor, coach and trainer, every single day I have conversations with employees who are resisting returning to the office.

Many of these disenfranchised staff are proactively making the move to setting up a business of their own that allows them to utilise the desk-based skills they have developed in traditional employment, which they can offer as a service to a stable of clients. Ultimately, their goal is that of transitioning out of their job into their developing side-hustle, thereby allowing them the ability to maintain their newfound home-based freedom.

The switch to a virtual or hybrid business model

There is absolutely no doubt that the virtual business model is tried and tested, and we know for a fact that it works.

For those businesses who have switched to operating virtually, not only is it allowing them to continue to trade through these trying times, but there are added bonuses as well. The cost saving benefit of renting smaller offices and the lower associated overheads – which, let’s face it, can be a huge business cost – are just the start.

Another popular option is that of the hybrid business model which provides a mix of decentralised or virtual/home-based work, together with office-centric work practices. This allows a balanced approach – the best of both worlds, perhaps – and possibly a greater ability to establish and maintain a positive workplace culture.

A huge benefit of embracing a virtual and/or hybrid business model is that teams no longer have to be located in close proximity to the workplace, which effectively means that businesses are no longer bound or constricted by the tyranny of distance.

This means that no matter their location, companies are able to look beyond their local pool of potential staff, thus freeing them up to engage the services of professionals from the other side of Australia, or the world for that matter.

The ‘new normal’ is here

There is no escaping the fact that the way we work has changed, and it’s quite conceivable that it will not return to the way it was pre-COVID anytime soon.

However, rather than this being a negative, it has given workplaces the ability to survive whilst opening up the opportunity to diversify, cut costs and build a workplace culture which increases the ability to retain staff by offering them true flexibility, and perhaps even a healthy work-life balance.

That’s something to think about isn’t it?

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