Guest blog by Bryan Froud, JLL

COVID-19 is proving to be a catalyst for more organisations adopting distributed working, a recent Gartner survey of CFOs found with 74 per cent claimed they plan to move more in-house jobs to telecommuting roles. As the pandemic (hopefully) subsides soon, it’s likely to have a lasting and profound effect on how organisations operate and radically change the employee experience.

Distributed Working

Distributed working broadly refers to work done by employees within the same organisation who are separated by their geographical locations. This may include a hybrid of employees in the ‘head office’ environment as well as employees working from home, cafes, co-worker spaces or remote offices.

Early in the pandemic – once business continuity was established – many began drawing their minds to the feasibility of ‘hub and spoke’ model, when the headquarters would reduce, but supply on city fringes or co-working spaces would increase to reduce employees commute but still given them a dedicated space.

A ‘Liquid Workforce’?

A Liquid Workforce is a term, coined by Accenture in 2016. It’s the workplace trend of highly agile skillsets in a world where digital transformation and flexibility are at the core of an organisations workforce strategy. Backed and empowered by technology, this leads to highly responsive teams that can come together from anywhere in the world to work on multiple projects. Companies that build new strategies to leverage the liquid (and contingent) workforce to quickly access a wide range of deep technical skills, and other valuable outside experience. In the past, creating an agile workforce has always seemed challenging, but COVID-19 lockdowns have forced companies to adapt. An agile workforce will only flourish if the organisation that is prepared and equipped to bend and flex.

A shift towards Geo-arbitrage?

However, a liquid workforce won’t only benefit companies. With high unemployment, wage growth typically stagnates, and there is the potential that more employees explore Geo-arbitrage to increase disposable income. Geo-arbitrage is a concept that was heavily popularized by those seeking financial independence. The principles of focus on working remotely, whilst maintaining current salary point and relocating where there are lower living costs, but still a high quality of life. With COVID normalising remote working amongst large organisations, and companies looking to rationalise their property portfolios, the opportunities for employees to take advantage of Geo-arbitrage has never been higher. However there are challenges ahead, some organisations are already looking to reduce the income of those looking to relocate to where the cost of living is cheaper. Geo-arbitrage also increases the size of the talent pool if organisations are looking to employee resources that work 100%, which will increase the competitiveness for roles in highly sought after organisations.

What does it mean for employees?

Nowadays, employees need to reinvent themselves multiple times throughout their careers. The ‘portfolio career’ was a concept that emerged at the height of the gig-economy, where you combine multiple streams of income—often creating a mix of full or part-time employment, freelancing or working as a consultant. No matter your age or area of expertise, knowledge will quickly become obsolete, and increasingly organisations expect the employees to take the initiative. This means individuals need to make conscious plans on developing new skills that keep their capabilities competitive. It’ll take a long time for the dust to settle, and the pandemic will likely have lasting effects on workplace design, culture and strategy.

About the author:

Bryan has spent over a decade in the corporate real estate sector, working across multiple disciplines and a mix of Government, Private Enterprise and Service Provider roles. He is a Director with JLL’s Consulting practice, specialising in workplace strategy and change management.