I do not think I am exaggerating when I say the pandemic will leave a lasting mark on working life in the future.

None of us thought we would go into a protracted crisis situation where countries had to shut down. The fact that our industry was defined as socially critical meant a number of new challenges we had no experience in solving before.

As summer holidays draw to a close, it is natural to think we will soon be returning to the office and this, regardless of the degree to which it happens, is not just about opening the canteen and contacting colleagues. It is just as much about applying the lessons learned from the pandemic and creating a better operating model -- both for employees and the company.

The pandemic has forced us all into a new era of digital communication. Overnight, we formed new expressions such as: "You're on mute", "Can you hear me?", "Your picture has frozen", "My presentation should be showing on screen now, but…", "Are we all here?", "My camera does not work" and last but not least, "I could not log in".

If employees do their job from home as efficiently as in the office, within the agreed time with the same level of quality, what does it matter where and how these tasks are performed?

Along with all the changes in communicating and getting jobs done, long-term working from home has created expectations of increased flexibility.

How we should interact, how meetings should be held and who should be in the office are ongoing discussions at many companies right now. Few of us has experience with this new reality -- what's come to be known as a "hybrid model" of working.

In a recent survey by of more than 100 companies by national organization HR Norway, 95 percent of the respondents answered that they would be offering their employees the opportunity to work from home more after the pandemic.

More than half of the respondents wanted to regulate which days employees or departments must be in the office. In addition, a quarter of the respondents wanted to spread the presence across different days to avoid everyone being in the office at the same time.

'Time bomb for inequality'

According to the general manager of HR Norway, Even Bolstad, one of the dilemmas a manager will have after the pandemic will be about control versus freedom.

I agree with Bolstad, and I also believe it is largely a matter of leadership style. These days, trust is in, and controlling-leadership is out.

The positive thing about changing the way we work is that we can have a more individual and "needs-adapted" way of working.

Parents of young children can benefit greatly from a "hybrid model" with increased flexibility and less time constraints.

Establishing work-from-home guidelines

Federal or regional rules regulating work-from-home guidelines are expected to give some guide on how companies should operate. However, companies should be prepared to safeguard management rights with home offices.

  • Here are a few tips about what points should be included in any agreement:
  • Scope and working environment
  • Working hours for homework
  • Employee availability
  • Duration of the agreement
  • Right of amendment and termination of the agreement
  • Ownership, operation and maintenance of equipment
  • Case processing, duty of confidentiality and storage of documents
  • Liability and insurance

Other groups, on the other hand, may experience that they lose the "sense of belonging," of being part of a community. There is a risk they may look for other opportunities more quickly, since they have a looser connection to the company.

A disadvantage of the hybrid model is that it cannot be used by all societal functions and industries. Inequalities between groups of individuals can increase and we can get what economists call a "time bomb for inequality."

Culture building is the biggest concern managers have in a post-pandemic world, according to Bolstad.

Managers must balance different needs -- employees in the office and at home, culture building and dealing with the danger of social isolation. There will be a greater need for individual adaptation, and the new hybrid reality has to take this into account.

The home office is here to stay, and the coronavirus has forced companies to change the way they organize their everyday work.

Many people work at home without any problems. There is little indication that these changes will be reversed after the pandemic, according to Nils Brede Moe, chief researcher at Norwegian research institute Sintef.

We must have confidence in our employees, continue to work together, have contact across the board and try our best, Moe advises.

If employees do their job from home as efficiently as in the office, within the agreed time with the same level of quality, what does it matter where and how these tasks are performed?

Kathleen Offman Mathisen is chief HR officer, and head of health and safety and internal communications at Grieg Seafood.