The last six months have put a big question mark on the future of offices. Many of us had to make the transition from our usual busy workplace to the comfort of our own homes, swapping desks for coffee tables, office chairs for sofas, and the morning commute for a quick step into the living room. For businesses, this has meant throwing out ‘traditional’ values and hitting fast forward on the idea of flexible working. Now, having spent most of 2020 working from home, we may finally be coming to terms with the lifestyle changes, but there are still burning questions that need to be answered: How will this transition affect work and business in the long-run? What does this mean for the future of the office as we know it?
As industries settle into the new normal, we’ve found that some have adapted better than others. The FinTech sector tends to be more agile than traditional financial services and their focus on tech means that the workforce has been able to transition over to a remote setting with relative ease.
However, as we’re working with people, there will always be human problems. The biggest issue is around wellbeing; people are finding it difficult to separate their professional and personal lives now that they live in their place of work. Lockdown might have saved commuters thousands in travel costs, but the minutes spent travelling have additional benefits; giving workers time to not only prepare for the day ahead of them, but allowing them to wind down before arriving home in the evening.
In a way, it’s no surprise that many of the main issues with working from home are connected to wellbeing. Loneliness, face-to-face collaboration and distractions at home are key contributors to the argument against remote-work. Lack of social interaction in particular has a notable detrimental effect on mental health and although technologies such as Zoom and Facetime cannot completely replace real human interaction, they are certainly useful aids to combat isolation. 
Despite the effects on wellbeing there are many benefits to working from home. Productivity is shown to improve and 40% of people feel the greatest benefit of remote work is the flexible schedule. People who work remotely at least once a month are 24% more likely to be happy and productive. 
The effects of such a shift in lifestyle reach far beyond just that of the individual; having a remote workforce directly impacts business costs. The obvious question is that if your employees are working from home, do you really need a physical office? There are many businesses that have decided to let their leases go as they’ve realised the saving that can be made from staying remote. In fact, fifty of the top UK employers currently have no plan in place to return all staff to the office in a full-time capacity. 
Equally, with the public working from home, things have been rocky for high street business including traditional banks. Digital banks such as Revolut and Monzo already have the infrastructure in place to cater to customers from home. Traditional banks have had to adapt quickly or risk ongoing branch closure.
Alexandra Frean, Starling Bank’s Head of Corporate Affairs, believes that a flexible working blend is the best approach for any business. Starling are ‘trialing a split system of A and B teams working remotely during alternate periods’, keeping the business running smoothly, with less interruption. 
Overall, working from home has been an option that many people have enjoyed over lockdown and that has been embraced by companies that have strived to continue as normal during a very not normal situation. 60% of people thinking they work best at home, and 77% of employees say that the possibility of remote work is a great incentive to join a company. Taking into account the issues with wellbeing, finding a flexible blend of remote and in-office working seems to be the best solution for forward-thinking businesses that want a more productive, happier workforce.