Now, most office workers are being encouraged to return to the office, but many are not willing to do so, and that’s causing a long term ‘revolution’ in the way many people work. This has many implications, not just in the workplace.

The UK’s Daily Mail reported ‘One in SIX white collar workers are considering a new job this year because bosses want them to return to office. They went on to report ‘A survey of 1,000 employees by messaging app Slack indicated that 29 per cent of workers were considering changing jobs this year with those in legal jobs, IT and telecoms, sales, and media and marketing the most likely to make a move.’

In the USA, Gallup reported ‘Seven in 10 U.S. White-Collar Workers Still Working Remotely’ They went on to report that their survey had revealed on average, at least eight in 10 workers in four occupation categories have been working remotely, including: computer-oriented or mathematical fields (86 percent), the life, physical or social sciences (86 percent), the arts, design, entertainment or media (81 percent), financial services, insurance, real estate or consulting (80 percent)

Not only do large proportions of workers in these occupations report working remotely at least some of the time, but majorities say they are doing so exclusively.

In South Africa it was reported ‘Just 3 percent of white collar workers want to return to the office five days a week, according to a poll by management consultancy Advanced Workplace Associates, which warned employees will quit if bosses force them back full-time ‘.

The genie is out of the bottle

One CEO of a leading company recently commented, “Employers have to realise that the genie is out of the bottle, workers have seen that flexibility can work and bosses who are not sensitive to their employees’ needs will suffer accordingly.”

A family member in the UK, lives an hour outside London. He needs to be up at 6am to get to his office in London by 9am. His season ticket costs over £5,000 a year, plus car parking at the station and underground fares on arrival. He rarely gets home before 8pm. Guess what, Covid has set him free and he doesn’t want to work in London anymore, or certainly not five days a week. Who can blame him? He is also of the firm belief that he gets more done working remotely. On top of that he is saving a fortune on commuting.

Although exact figures are not yet available for Portugal, every indication is that the situation is very similar in the industries that don’t need a physical contact with the public. I can’t prove it, but several times I have needed to use a customer contact service, there is every indication that the operator is at home, not in an office or call centre.

Many companies are reporting that recruiting staff for office-based work is getting problematical. People would rather work part time or only from home. In many countries, there are more jobs than people to fill the vacancies. Employers are not in a position to ‘demand’ a five day a week office presence. Employers are having to compromise.

The possible ‘side effects’

Office property developers should be getting nervous. In all likelihood, companies will be looking to reduce office space, not increase it. Any chance of increasing office rents seems very unlikely to succeed. For ‘big name’ companies, a central city address was a big attraction, will that last or will companies start to drift to locations nearer to their workforce?

All around city centre office locations, there is a large support industry, that’s everything from take away, lunch, coffee shops etc. They have developed to support office workers and their everyday needs. They will all suffer from this move to home based working.

Add to this public transport. There is far less demand for ‘commuter’ trains. At peak times the trains were packed full of people heading for their city centre offices. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that demand decreased during the Covid restrictions, but there are no great signs of recovery now that people can go back to working out of the office.

A quick search of the net revealed many Portuguese based recruiting companies offering positions for remote working. Salaries ranged from €2,000 a month and up.

The times they are a changing (Bob Dylan)

There seems little doubt that Covid has started to change the way we work. Not just that, it may well be changing the whole infrastructure that has grown around the office industry. I suspect many employers are hoping this will ‘blow over’ and that their office workers will start to return to the office eventually. I am not sure this will happen. People like this new way of working, it improves their lifestyle and sense of well-being. It’s almost certainly less stressful.

The ‘white collar’ workforce has the upper hand at the moment, there are plenty of jobs available and not sufficient people to fill the vacancies. Employers are not in a position to dictate working conditions. They are going to need to be flexible.

This brings a whole new meaning to ‘long Covid’, the long term effect of this virus may well prove to be a fundamental change to the way we work for years to come.