The COVID-19 pandemic will have a lasting impact on the way employees work. Not only that, but it will also impact how companies operate and how they recruit talent. After the work from home mandates, employees have gotten a taste of life outside the office. With more time being spent at home do to the lack of commute, some are experiencing a much better work life balance. Saturdays no longer need to be spent doing household chores. Parents are able to spend more time with their kids. In some cases working from home has even increased the productivity of employees. Working from home has not only been great for employees but many companies have seen an increase in their bottom lines. With both companies and employees benefiting from this change, it’s time for both to adapt.

Adapting doesn’t necessarily mean that the office is dead. While there are many benefits to working from home, there are just as many benefits to being in the office. Some employees are more productive when they are in an office instead of at home. Other employees prefer to keep their home and work life separate. Collaboration is much easier to do in person than over zoom. Creating a company culture is harder when your workforce is completely remote. For employees early on in their career an office environment might be critical for them to thrive. From a learning standpoint they can be near their peers and mentors. From a social standpoint it allows them to make friends in the office and build a social life. While each has its own pros and cons, I think we can confidently say the future of work will be a hybrid model.

What the hybrid model looks like may vary from company to company. One thing that is here to stay is flexibility. Now that it’s been shown most jobs can be done from home, people will be more bold in asking for flexibility. Flexibility can look like being fully remote, having a dedicated work from home day(s), or days where you split your time between home and the office. Companies that were once vehemently against working from home will have to adapt. In order to recruit and maintain talent, companies will need to be willing to offer concessions on where work is completed. The flexibility will also impact where people are able to live. No longer are employees going to be tied to major cities. Instead they can choose to live in more affordable cities or be closer to friends and family.

While flexibility is one trend here to stay, we will also see other COVID-19 trends stick around. Both the reduction in business travel and increase usage of QR codes will be here long after the pandemic. Business travel will rebound to a degree, but it might never be at the level it once was. With employees traveling less, they actually have the ability to meet with more customers. Employees traveling less and meeting with more customers means increased revenue for companies. Face to face meetings will still be a part of business relationships, they just might not happen as frequently. QR codes have exploded over the last year, it seems every restaurant has a QR code menu. With the ability to put key business information into the pocket of the consumer it’s a no brainer to utilize QR codes. They are also more environmentally friendly. QR codes lead to a reduction in paper usage, saving both the planet and company costs.

This next evolution of work will mean more dependence on collaboration tools. You’ve seen an increase in demand for Zoom, Google meets and Microsoft teams over the last year. These tools make it easier for employees to work together whether they are at home or in the office. Slack, Google Docs and Slite will continue to remain necessary as a form of collaboration. Being able to quickly get an answer to a question or work across a document will continue to be a necessity.

While tools exist for collaboration, solutions for other office functions will need to be created or improved. Jobs such as sending mail are typically done from the office. This is because the mailing supplies, ink, paper and postage are often shared amongst employees. Or for companies that send a high volume of mail the relay on a Postage Meter. Postage meters usually don’t travel well and are not able to be used when an employee is not in the office. For these reasons, sending business mail from home is usually a task that can’t be done. Online mailing solutions, like Switch, are hoping to change that. Switch gives employees the ability to send mail from anywhere. This means your office, home office or on the road from your mobile device. Gone are the days of having to be in the office to handle mail sending. Switch is just one of many tools that will help provide more flexibility in the workplace.

The next few years will be years of invention and adaption. Companies will change the way they operate and new companies will create ways for them to do so. The pandemic changed the way people think about life and work and how they want to spend their time. Companies that adapt will be able to recruit and retain key talent. Other companies may find that they lose out on talent with their unwillingness to adapt. Either way, the next 20 years of work will look much different than the previous 20.