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The Workplace of the Future

Will COVID-19 permanently change where, and how, we work?

The nature of work, offices and productivity has been entirely transformed by the coronavirus – prestigious law firms are empty as ghost towns; companies like Citi, Okta, Google and Twitter have said they’re not bringing workers back on campus full time anytime soon or are relying on a rotating schedule; cities are emptying as remote workers migrate to smaller, less expensive locales. Small businesses and entrepreneurs are now looking at streamlining every part of their businesses, and they’re rethinking their monthly real estate budgets, too.

Here are three ways in which the nature of work could look very different – the disappearance of offices; cafes and stores as showrooms instead of gathering places; and the internet firmly embedded into our everyday world.

No more office

According to a report by Flexjobs and Global Workplace Analytics, even just part-time remote work has been shown to save companies around $11,000 a year per employee in facilities costs, absences, turnover, continuity and productivity. With cost savings like these, it’s interesting to think about the idea of the office going away completely.

As we mentioned above, several major firms have already chosen this path. Freelancers are now considering being digital nomads – traveling to different locations during the year to do their work once allowed. And countries like Barbados, Estonia and Bermuda are welcoming the creative class with programs and short-term visas. What will the world look like with connected ecosystems of workers in far flung locales instead of centralized offices?

Dining comes to you

Restaurants and small service-based businesses have been forced to pivot quickly, suddenly relying heavily on third-party services to keep their businesses afloat. “In troubling times, you have to come up with an answer,” Jeffery Thomas from Sweet Potato Sensations, a small business in Detroit, says in USA Today. “If you don’t evolve, you’re not successful.” They, like so many other similar small businesses, are working to seamlessly integrate Uber Eats, DoorDash and Grubhub into their business and website. Imagine cafes and stores only as showrooms or show places.

Already we’ve seen food trucks rise to meet this on-demand, curbside pickup culture, and restaurants downsizing to just a commercial kitchen and pickup window, known as “ghost kitchens.” These are set to account for a possible $300 million in yearly sales in the next five years, according to Restaurant Business magazine. Outdoor dining – even in colder temps – will be the new normal, with “igloo” table heaters or propane outdoor heaters for those braving the cold.

The internet in your refrigerator

From supply chain to healthcare, the Internet of Things (IoT) stands poised to facilitate a post-COVID-19 world. From refrigerators that reorder your favorite work-from- home snacks when you run low, to sensors that beep when you are less than six feet apart, IoT will be popping up in unexpected ways more than ever. Already healthcare providers are utilizing IoT through wearables – bracelets that patients wear to alert nurses on everything from temperature to when they are touching their faces. 5G-enabled robots are delivering food and supplies to COVID-19 wards in hospitals – might they be used to make curbside pickup easier?

Accounting apps like Wave or Freshbooks pull your accounting information from multiple sources, allowing you to see financial data in real time. You may have had to quickly integrate payment processing and delivery service apps already due to the pandemic. Imagine a year from now when all that data is being processed in an IoT app and you are analyzing and forecasting sales in real time.

Next steps for business owners

Things to consider for the future:

  • What impact would these changes have on your business or your customers?

  • If these changes are permanent, think about new marketing strategies you might need to deploy.

  • Sit down with your team and ask them where they see things going, and make a plan to capture any new revenue opportunities that might be opened up as a result.



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