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The new way of working: it's about learning, experimenting and trust

It is difficult to predict what the future will look like, but there is a good chance that working from home will be part of our new normal once we emerge from the Covid-19 crisis. PwC expert Bas van de Pas expects a few days at the office, and a few days working from home, to become the norm, even if we find a vaccine or treatment for Covid-19.

"Right now we are working from home but it is a copy of the old situation, when we were in the office," says Bas. "However, I expect more fundamental adjustments to happen in the future if working from home really becomes the new normal. Compare it to the internet: it used to be a kind of digital telephone book or bulletin board, but that has developed into a platform with other forms of communication and business models."

From working at 1.5 metre distance...

  • Covid-19 will force a large number of companies to have at least some of their employees work from home in the near future. This is especially true for companies that are active in the non-tangible services.
  • Organisations may redesign their offices according to the rules of the 1.5 metre society, whereby the 'weakest link' determines the capacity of a certain space. Plexiglass between offices increases the number of workplaces, but are lifts and sanitation designed for such high numbers of employees?
  • Attention to the employee experience is essential when redesigning the space. There is a difference between "being safe" and "feeling safe". Different groups of workers (elderly/ young/ workers with vulnerable family members) may experience the situation differently.
  • The question of who will be allowed to return to the office first, should (also) take an employee's social circumstances into account (who cannot work well at home because of a crowded space, or on the other hand loneliness or tensions at home?)

...to the real new ways of working

  • A (more) permanent definition of tasks that have to be done at the office, from a risk and quality assurance perspective (for example handling confidential documentation), and tasks that can be performed at home (drawing up a report or making a presentation).
  • The office can become a meeting space while home becomes where work tasks are actually performed.
  • The new ways of working will be a continuous experiment that requires evaluation and adjustment. Nobody has experience with this and we need to find what works through trial and error.
  • Budgets will likely be adjusted: employees save on travel costs, while companies can economise the rent of office space. To replace this there will likely be more support to employees to adjust their workspace at home and an increased focus on occupational health.
  • Working remotely has consequences for HR: the geographical area from which employers recruit will grow, and so will the geographical area in which job seekers look for opportunities. There are also consequences for onboarding, coaching and continuous training which will all be switched online.
  • New ways of working will require a new leadership style. Trust will replace control as a means of making sure that the work gets done.

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Bas van de Pas

Bas van de Pas

Partner, PwC Netherlands

Tel: +31 (0)62 263 83 99

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