Did the pandemic open the era of the home office?
The new coronavirus is still raging, which has severely affected the regular operation of the social and economic life of most countries in the world. On April 7, the Singaporean government began to implement the strictest quarantine order since the pandemic. All employees of non-essential enterprises are working from home, and indoor and outdoor gatherings of any size are not allowed.
Since the start of the pandemic, remote video software operators/providers and hardware manufacturers are raving and exaggerating the benefits of a home office, as if humans would enter the era of “not stepping out of the house,” “working from home,” “home cooking,” “ordering takeaways,” and “exercising at home.”
Home offices are not a new concept, before the industrial revolution, with the shop at the front with factory at the back and home office were once the mainstream. After the Industrial industry Revolution, there were only large factories that focus on production, centralized offices, and only government office buildings before gradually the existence of office buildings in the modern sense, which are now called traditional offices.
The basis of the modern remote office is to be able to hold video conferences and answer phone calls. The continuous upgrade of mobile Internet, the popularization of notebook computers and smartphones, and the constant updating of various video conferencing and communication systems provide the most basic conditions for home office support.
Nevertheless, the home office has not become the mainstream of the office model, but instead, it created Starbucks and we call it the “third space,” REGUS service office, and WEWORK coworking space.
Why is that so? It’s straightforward, it’s human nature. People need to work with people; people need to be recognized by others. Artificial intelligence is a tool that cannot replace the unique emotional communication between people.
✎ About the author
National University of Singapore Business School
Chinese EMBA Class 21
Founder and CEO of O2Work
Professor Chu Jun Hong
National University of Singapore, Business School
Associate Professor, Department of Marketing
Master in Marketing Analysis and Insights
PhD, Marketing, University of Chicago
MBA, University of Chicago
BA, Economics, Beijing University
Research areas: management channels, e-commerce, network effects, retail competition, etc.
Ever since humans exist on the earth, they have been living in a group body existence, which is determined by the family’s genetic relations and also the animal’s natural instincts. Whether it is the era of farming civilization or the period of industrial civilization, people need to stay with people; even if they don’t know each other at the beginning, they will always get acquainted, because this is a desire and a kind of attraction from each other.
The era of 5G telecommunications has arrived. The ubiquitous mobile Internet will only improve the efficiency of work online, but it cannot replace people when offline, which includes physical communication and interactions.
A home office is objective and naturally has its rationality. But if there are claims that the home office will become popular because of the pandemic and that home office will have an impact on traditional office and shared office industry, it is exaggerating.
▲Working from home had made a lot of young parents unable to focus their energy and mind on work-related contents, making them low productivity.(reference photo)
At the moment, the home office is just a last resort to fight against the spike in the pandemic circulation.
In the entire office market, home office lacks a working atmosphere, it is difficult to coordinate and cooperate, and its low efficiency has been generally verified. After 2010, many large companies canceled remote offices, such as Yahoo, in 2012, and IBM in 2018.
Moreover, remote video conferencing when working at home often presents a variety of embarrassments, such as inappropriate clothing, no make-up, children/pets mistakenly entering the camera, etc. Therefore, despite the development of home offices, it is challenging to become the mainstream choice of the office market.
Under the pandemic, work from home is implemented to stop the spread of the virus. After the outbreak, most of us still have to return to the office.
After the pandemic, the era of shared office/coworking will thrive.
In 2018, the share of office space leased in shared office space in London accounted for the highest proportion of total office space in the world, but it was also less than 7%. Assuming that the pandemic causes most to work from home the norm, the traditional office should be the first to be affected because the per Capita overall office cost of traditional offices is about three times that of shared office cost.
Under the pandemic, the global economy is not only in a downturn but in a severe recession. So, many companies that have been hit will certainly downsize to reduce costs. In order to survive, it will be an inevitable choice to move from a traditional office to a coworking space.
The flexibility, economic, and convenience of coworking are the prominent advantages over the traditional office. The smallest unit you must rent in a traditional office is of around 1,000 square feet, but for coworking space, you can rent out smaller sizes units. You can rent according to the number of workstations you need. The workstations can gradually increase as the company grows. If you need to retrench your employees, you can also cease the rentals of workstations accordingly to your needs.
If compared with a traditional office, the lease period generally starts from two years onwards. Coworking space office units can be rented on a quarterly or monthly basis, while workstations can be rented on a monthly, daily, or even hourly basis.
The world’s first-tier cities are all expensive; every inch of land is equivalent to gold, also in a traditional office, you still need to set up meeting rooms, meeting areas and pantry in a limited space. If the area is too small, the functionality and physical experiences are reduced, and if it is decent enough, the cost is very high.
On the other hand, a coworking space is equipped with conference rooms, Phonebooths, pantry and leisure areas that are several times larger in size and area than a traditional office; therefore, a coworking space is much more comfortable and spacious compared to a traditional office.
A traditional office needs to select a location, interior designers and renovation contractors, need to repeatedly negotiate with contractors and vendors etc, go on-site supervision, carry out acceptance checks, need to buy office equipment, hire cleaning staff, installation of wi-fi servers internet connections, installation of water and electricity supplies, and pay duly in monthly bills. On the contrary, coworking space is just like staying in a hotel; it’s similar to just carrying your luggage. You can immediately move in. Pieces of Furniture like desks and chairs, WI-FI, purified drinking water, fresh fruit water, all kinds of tea, and coffee, almost all these costs are into the rent.
The value of a community in a coworking space is a unique advantage over a traditional office. By creating a spacious and comfortable shared space, and by holding various forms and content of community activities, it creates opportunities for members and non-members to know each other, having more interactions and able to grow together.
The pandemic is still spreading, there is no specific medicine or a cure so far, and the vaccine will take a while to be approved. In fact, in the process of human evolution, there has always been illness first, then medicine. The same is true for viruses, and the most effective against viruses is scientific protection and autoimmunity.
In 1918, Europe was stricken by war and all industries were dying off and leaving people unrest; this epidemic spread for a year. Today, government governance capabilities, foreign dividends, and countries’ technological standards around the world are so advanced that it can help to control the epidemic quickly. However, the pandemic will cause fatalities for individuals with poor self-immunity or with existing diseases.
For our bodies, there are internal and external environments. If the internal environment is healthy and optimistic, the self-immunity is strong; if the external environment is poor, it will damage and reduce immunity.
What we call the extracorporeal environment includes home environment, office environment, and other environments. Workers generally spend more than 1/3 of their time in the office environment.
Poor office environment often disperses the atmosphere polluted by various industrial emissions, as well as VOC, formaldehyde, and other volatile organic compounds brought by renovation materials processed by multiple petrochemical products. If one is breathing in such kind of air in an environment, not exposed to sufficient sunlight, self immunity naturally weakens.
Such a state of mind and body makes it difficult to resist common colds, not to mention malicious viruses. For companies, to find or create an eco-friendly coworking space or office space to allow employees to enjoy fresh air, full natural light, green surroundings, and a comfortable office environment is a great challenge. But if they do, it will be of great benefit for the employees and for the continuous improvement of their immunity. In the long run, it is the most cost-effective investment.
As an indoor environmental, ecological specialist, O2WORK is committed to the ecological optimization of the indoor environment, through the establishment of indoor environmental plant communities, and the application of comprehensive technologies and products to promote the physical and mental health of the working population
▲ Being an indoor environmental ecological specialist, O2WORK is committed to ecological optimization of the indoor environment, through the establishment of indoor environmental plant communities, and the application of comprehensive technologies and products to promote the physical and mental health of the working population
The essence of coworking space is “the place where people work,” and its core is people, and the place is the indoor environment. As an indoor space where people gather, coworking space has a more relevant value for health.
At last, the pandemic will end, and we will return to the office. Home office, traditional office, and coworking space provide more and more diverse options for different industries, enterprises, and different talents and positions. Various office scenarios complement each other, and no one is indispensable.
However, in an indoor environment, the office’s impact on the physical and mental health of the office population must be a top priority that must be faced and resolved.