Michael Probst (Andersen Tax): How will Covid-19 change the working environment in the long term?
Changes in working habits and technological tools learned during lockdowns, from teleworking to Zoom calls, will be a lasting legacy of the pandemic, says Andersen Tax managing director Michael Probst, but a return to face-to-face meetings will be very welcome, too.
What has been the most important impact on working conditions?
Among the biggest changes prompted by Covid-19 is the reduction of social contact, whether between partners and staff and between employees, or the external contacts with clients and international contacts, required to protect people’s health during the pandemic. With support from IT departments, working from home and new communication tools have played an important role in the ongoing conduct of business and helped keep disruption to a minimum. The downside is the absence of socialising in the working environment, at the expense of work-life balance and job satisfaction. In addition, socialising also normally encompasses direct marketing, including meetings with potential new clients both locally and internationally. And economically, empty offices are a waste of resources. The upside is a gain in time, especially commuting and travel to meet contacts and clients abroad – though I do miss those long business lunches.
“The flexibility offered by remote working and telecommunications will be a lasting legacy of the pandemic.”
What changes will we see once the pandemic has passed?
The worldwide economic impact of the pandemic is evident to everybody. But what benefits will remain once the crisis has passed? In larger countries that are not dependent on cross-border commuters and subject to the complex rules on tax and social security they entail, working from home will become more common for all employers that can accommodate it from an organisational point of view. Many staff that face the stress of commuting long distances may seek to do a larger proportion of their work from home. Luxembourg employers of cross-border commuters currently benefit from a suspension of the usual tax and social security restrictions, but other solutions will be required once the normal rules apply again. These may include satellite offices, located in Luxembourg but close to the country’s border, to reduce employees’ commuting time. This will only make sense, however, if staff are ready to give up their fixed workplace in the main office and embrace hot-desking, to make the solution viable for employers, too.
Will other travel be reduced?
We are all waiting for the Covid-19 restrictions to be lifted and allow meetings again with clients and network partners, especially internationally. The big difference to the period before the pandemic will be a significant reduction in all travel. As with existing contacts, the communications tools that have come into their own during lockdown restrictions will continue to be used in the future. The flexibility offered by remote working and telecommunications will be a lasting legacy of the pandemic. Still, it will be good to see smiles back on people’s faces and for body language again to become a key element part of communication.