How Do COVID Home Offices Require Adjustment
The inception of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, 2020 has caused huge upheaval across the globe. Millions of office workers around the world have been working from home. As they ride out the pandemic, employees have had to adjust their routines to the new conditions. Less space, remote access tools and data storage has required much adaptation on behalf of companies and their employees.
People working from home will have to continue adjusting their working arrangements. Increased conformity to the new demands of working from home has been required.
The length of the pandemic raises questions about how sustainable working from home is. Is this the future of employment?
It’s unlikely that the present conditions will last forever, however they have caused many notable changes to regular routines. Access to remote servers has had to be granted by IT teams. Meetings are now being held remotely from home offices, using apps like Zoom. Security concerns are more important and the necessity of setting up a productive home office has never been greater.
What other planning has had to be undertaken by managers in the midst of the pandemic? And what considerations have been taken by employees to set up an efficient home office?
Google Drive is one web application that has undoubtedly been used increasingly during COVID-19. Remote editing capabilities are made easy with the Google Docs suite. Similarly, Google Drive Servers have surely been providing effective storage options to staff working from home.
Zoom is another app that has seen huge increases in use since the start of the pandemic. With face to face meetings impossible with social distancing restrictions in place, Zoom has been increasingly used across the world. Video conferences between workers working remotely are being held on Zoom.
Finally, cyber security measures have come into question when staff need to accessing secure documents stored on office servers at home. This final consideration is especially important to business owners whose business value is entrenched in secure documents stored at their offices.
Employees themselves have had to take into account considerations to facilitate an effective dedicated work area. Noise and visual distractions have had to be removed from working areas, for example, televisions, dogs and children. To avoid “Zoom bombing”, doors that were previously unlocked have had to be closed. Off-limits zones have had to be set up to allow for focus and retention of motivation.
Office furniture has been needed in increasing volumes. Working from home employees may realise their current office decor is not up to the task of keeping them productive. Investment in new furniture may be required more frequently.
Other home office expenses may become more obvious as the pandemic continues, like internet usage and mobile phones. However, tax breaks like the work from home deduction may offset these running expenses following completion of a tax return.
Some industry organisations have questioned how long the current drain on internet network infrastructure by WFH employees can last.
Congestion is expected as bandwidth use exceeds limits, especially in areas that still rely on copper cables to transmit data. With multiple users at home accessing bandwidth, it’s possible, according to some researchers, that internet speeds will be throttled. Seamless productivity during working hours may become impossible if networks face huge demands.
Similarly, not every office network is equipped to handle hundreds, if not thousands, of remote workers. Segmented access to servers at any one time places large demands on network infrastructure that not all offices can handle.
Despite these morose predictions, we have yet to see an online Armageddon manifest. Data cables across Australia have sustained the transmission of data that is needed by employees working from home.
The future of office space
What the pandemic has shown us is that companies can be just as productive (if not moreso) with employees working from home as in a formal office environment. How this changes future demand for office space is too early to call. Perhaps companies will move to temporary or serviced office space to save money on rent (which can be substantial). They could offer their employees the option of working from home for most of the working week, coming in for team meetings or client presentations or for times where face-to-face collaboration is required.
This represents an enormous opportunity for the serviced office segment. It also begs the question, what happens if cities across the globe are left with empty office buildings? Will they be repurposed? Will the traditional CBD design model change? Less office space, more cafes, restaurants, and shared open spaces? We could see a massive swing towards urban renewal. It also raises questions around the future of home designs as we may see office spaces incorporated into floorplans. And then there’s the fact that there will be less need for motor vehicles and public transport.
On the other hand, we may see people’s need for physical contact, the need to clearly delineate work from home time (and living space) return us all to our offices and cubicles as soon as a vaccine is globally adopted. Only time will tell.
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The perks of working for or running a business from home are evident in most cases. Cheaper coffee, homemade lunches and the other creature comforts available at home make it appealing for some people. These perks tend to offset the lack of personal contact and support networks that are present in the office.
It’s this that has caused many industry leaders to question whether working from home is a profitable long-term solution. However, with the lack of face to face support this is unlikely. Similarly, the necessity of investing in potentially expensive remote access software makes it improbable. Overall, it’s doubtful that the number of people working from home right now will remain the same for the long term.
Pillar Financial offers financial planning services across Melbourne. We are open for business Monday to Friday, 9:00AM-5:00PM. If you have a question about your financial situation, please contact us on 1300 730 309. We will arrange a confidential appointment with one of our accountants for you.
We are able to help you claim working from home deductions when you are processing your 2020 tax refund. If this is of interest to you, please don’t hesitate and call us today for a confidential discussion. We can calculate the cost of working from your home office space according to the hours worked from home. We can help you claim a deduction on any work related portion of expenses.