New Normal? Business As Usual – The Next Chapter
Many people, including us at Roomzilla, wonder how the global coronavirus pandemic will impact our economy, social interactions, and the way we work in the short, medium & long term. One thing for sure, the post-pandemic world is going to differ and it could take up to several months to get us back to a place similar to the one before the virus outbreak. Operating within the meeting room booking system industry, here at Roomzilla we obviously pay the closest attention to changes and fluctuations in employees, freelancers, and entrepreneurs’ way of conducting their day-to-day business.
The whole world is working remotely
In recent weeks an unprecedented phenomenon has taken place – people all around the world moved away from their offices and re-shaped their daily routine by working from home. Even though in the last few years more and more of the workforce has been introducing & experimenting with variations of the ‘home office’ approach, never in the world’s history have so many people stopped showing up to their offices and do all their work responsibilities from their homes instead. In some industries such as IT, gaming, or ecommerce all workers have been asked to remain at home and not come into the office until the spreading virus is contained. What will happen after the situation is back to normal again? Does it mean the end of brick and mortar offices as we know it? Will people permanently change their work habits and start working only from their sofas? Is real-estate aimed at renting large office spaces to corporations going to collapse with more and more employers not having the need for big office spaces to accommodate their employees? For us here at Roomzilla, the potential impact to the business and the industry is of course something that needs closer analysis.
Technical advances in communication and collaboration areas surely allowed us to closely work together even while being thousands of miles away from each other. Companies such as Slack, Zoom, Skype, Google, Dropbox, GitHub, and other virtual collaboration tools have made it possible for us to stay in close contact and exchange important information in seconds without the necessity of sitting next to each other in the office. It’s become evident that we are able to do our business, develop new products, do sales and marketing without leaving our cosy couches. In the coming future new technologies fueled with Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality engines will provide an even more close-to-real experience to cooperate in ‘virtual office’ while sitting comfortably in our kitchens and living rooms. Even if the governments announce a return to ‘back to normal’ and declare victory over the virus, some people will decide not to take risks and stay in their homes a little longer, just in case.
Having all these technological aids and a solid track record of things actually being done and moving forward even if we don’t sit back-to-back in the office will, for sure, make companies switching more towards a fully-remote work scheme a reality (or at least considering it). Nevertheless, I don’t believe it’s going to be the ‘new world order’ and it’s highly unlikely that from now on everyone is going to do their work from home. It’s cool, in the short term, if you can spend some time in your place and do your job without the morning commute and showing up in your office every day. However, in the long term the majority of the population will be coming back to their ‘regular’ and ‘real’ offices. Why is that? Because that’s what people are – we need to be a part of the community. We crave physical interactions, eye-contact, hearing others talking and seeing them while they speak or at least discussing last weekend’s trip outside the city over lunch. Looking closely at the last 20 years of social media (such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) popularity growth we can actually draw some conclusions and takeaways from the world’s behaviour already. After years of aggressive and unprecedented social media online expansion people tend to shy away from spending their lives entirely in them. Trends like Offline Living or events such as National Day of Unplugging attract more individuals each year. More and more people delete their social media accounts craving more ‘real-life’ experiences and ‘real people’ interactions. Living your life 100% online all the time has proven simply not enough. There’s a new growing trend visible among millennials and even younger generations of focusing more on real-life experiences rather than online social media presence only. Even tech-giants such as Google put more emphasis on this topic by enhancing movements like Digital Wellbeing focused on finding the right balance between spending your time online and offline.
Another example – the gaming industry. Few industries have seen such a surge in demand comparable to gaming in the last decades. Games are now high-budget-vast-marketing $120 bln valued machine attracting millions of new customers every year. eGaming has its own leagues, huge fan base and even its own television. But, here’s the catch – even though gaming is rapidly growing across the globe alongside with it huge on-site tournaments pop up. Contests such as IEM (Intel Extreme Masters) or The International attract audiences of +30k (and growing) in physical locations where people gather, cheer and applaud gamers altogether on stadiums. Point is, even e-gamers crave social interactions and ‘real-human’ experiences.
The bottom line
Recent months’ pandemic will surely leave a strong footprint on our work habits. Advances in technology and communication, in many cases, already allow us to easily collaborate with each other without having to sit desk-by-desk. In the short-term, some corporations and employees themselves will decide to move to 100% remote work – that means less office space required with more people working from their homes entirely. However, in the long-term people will start coming back to their offices and colleagues simply because of missing human contact. The post-pandemic way of working is going to be a bigger and more flexible mixture of home office and remote work for the majority of people, but it won’t keep everyone in their private places forever. With more work flexibility and less fixed office space needed, an opportunity for a shared or serviced office space industry may emerge even stronger. Flexible office spaces with no 10-year-long contracts and the possibility to add or decrease office space needed from month to month may become an even more attractive way for big companies to move their workforce, instead of keeping large and unused real estates. As for Roomzilla, well we’re going to be around; however, we’re working on ensuring that our platform is ready for any new way forward.