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Coping with the New Normal - Covid-19 and after

How did Poles pass the enforced test of remote working?

By Joanna Mroczek, head of CEE Research & Marketing, CBRE Poland
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The coronavirus pandemic has created a situation, where we have had to undergo an intensive course of performing our duties outside the office over the past few months. The conclusions have turned out to be surprisingly optimistic – Poles have coped well with the transition to a new work mode, almost overnight. Research indicates that a significant number of us are able to work from home as efficiently as before. On the other hand, we still need an office, as it is a space where we can meet and exchange ideas, and that is what we miss the most.

Due to the current situation, many employees have had to move their professional duties to their own homes in a short time. Some of them additionally stayed home with their close relatives, often with children who required care. This has been a difficult situation, one which employees didn’t have any chance to prepare for. This could have resulted in problems, including with the organisation of our own working time. In extreme cases, this may be associated with the feeling that we work all the time. Experts point out that this is related to the fact that Polish employees are still adjusting to remote working – you just have to ‘learn’ to work outside the office.

Until now, employees strictly separated the time for work in the office, from the rest of the day, which they spent at home. As a result of this separation, they knew what amenities they could count on in the office space and that by leaving it they moved to their private-life zone. Now, the balance between work and personal life has been shaken. We have locked ourselves in our homes without any instructions on how to behave and feel at that time. However, employees have coped with this challenge quite well. Experts point out that this intensive course in remote working, forced upon us by the coronavirus, will further broaden and deepen this already popular form of performing our job. As the research shows, 44% of employees declare that their effectiveness in performing their job at home does not decrease.

Home office – not as black as it’s painted

Grafton Recruitment and CBRE research shows that Poles have enjoyed the remote working mode. 64% of employees admit that after returning to the office, if they have the opportunity, they would want to perform their professional duties remotely more often. What's more, people who worked successfully at home will not want to give up this new mode so easily. Already 25% of people have indicated that after returning to normal work they would like to spend at least one day a week outside the office. The highest percentage, as many as 26%, would ideally look for two days of remote working, whilst 14% would like to work remotely for three days, 6% want to visit the office only once a week, and 11% do not want to go back to the office at all.

Most employees who had to adapt their home environment to work remotely within a short period of time opted for minimalism. To perform professional duties, a laptop, the Internet, online messengers and a desk are sufficient.  Every tenth person also indicated an appreciation of a friendly working environment, i.e. natural light, peace and quiet, and plants. However, many employees are keen to return to the office space, and more specifically for interaction with others, which is now proving very difficult.

Working non-stop – the dark sides of the home office

Despite many advantages, organising work at home is a challenge. Almost three-quarters of employees admit that at home, they work at completely different times than in the office. Some declare that their work lasts all day, whilst others do not start until 10:00 am. Paradoxically, it's difficult to maintain a work-life balance when working from home. Half of those surveyed indicated that in the home office mode the balance tilts towards professional duties at the expense of a private life. Working parents, whose current situation is even more severe, have complained about this. More than half of them indicate that they are now more tired after a day's work than when performing their duties in the office and furthermore, that they also miss the clear separation of work and home.

Poles also complain about the often-poor internet connection, which significantly hinders their daily work and indicates that the home office is much less adapted to the regular performance of professional duties than the office space.

Employees of organisations that have planned to switch to this form of work in an evolutionary way could encounter another difficulty, as coronavirus has forced a real revolution on them here and now, as well as on those companies that did not plan such a solution at all. In practice, this has meant a lack of technological support and competence for work, with cooperation and management according to a new formula. This has become an additional factor affecting productivity and the level of stress experienced by employees.

How did our geographical neighbours cope with the home office?

The challenge of remote working has also caused a revolution among our geographical neighbours. The CBRE study Working from Home Survey 2020 shows that employees from Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Romania differ from each other in terms of their habits of working remotely. The home office was not a surprise for the Slovaks, among whom only 15% of employees  had not worked remotely from home before the pandemic.  Remote working was a much greater challenge for the Hungarians, since as many as 66% of people had not done it before.

Poles, as well as Hungarians and Romanians, miss the clear separation of professional and private life the most. On the other hand, the Czechs and Slovaks miss the conversation with their colleagues. Interestingly, employees from Poland and Hungary place the friendly work-environment in the top five essentials of remote working. Romanians and Czechs replace this with online collaboration tools, and the Slovaks in the top five point to... an antivirus program.

What did remote working teach us?

The forced transition to a home office is an experience that can change the existing work order in organisations. The current feelings of employees seem to indicate a rediscovery of the importance of the office in the employee's life. It is not only a physical space, but a symbolic separation of two zones of life – private and professional – and a place where we meet with others, exchange ideas or talk. However, according to experts, despite the obvious advantages of the office, the experience of remote working will affect changes in work strategies and more employees will benefit from the opportunity to work from home in the future. Only the next few months will show if and how the approach of employers to remote working will change, and how the experience of working from home will translate into the expected return to traditional offices in the near future.

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