Steven Broomhead is chief executive of Warrington Borough Council and looks at the future of the office in his latest column

PERHAPS one positive outcome from the pandemic has been the changes in our social and work lives with the significant growth in video conferencing applications?

The question is will this be short term or will this lead to longer structural change, particularly in the workplace?

Since lockdown, there has been a boom in Zoom, Teams, Facetime, House party and many other video apps. For family and work they have been the only safe way to communicate. It certainly doesn’t replace the family hug.

Personally, I’ve moved from a digital dinosaur to Buzz Lightyear in 10 weeks. For those unknown keyboard warriors/observers of my hair style, I currently look like a cross between Noddy Holder and Compo. In our town each day we socialise, view lessons, sing in choirs, attend church, birthday parties, as well as some of us actively work from home.

It also brings with it new challenges. I’ve been in ‘meetings’ when you see others with wild hair, worryingly untidy rooms in the background and the strangest of pyjamas. There is also the challenge of technical frustrations with the signal dropping out and dealing with pixilated faces. It shows as a town that our broadband needs more investment.

As we learn to live with Covid, it’s likely that the ‘boom in Zoom’ will continue and will quickly re-design the nature of work and workplace. Flexible and agile working will become much more embedded and accepted.

Working from home has been viewed by work fundamentalists with suspicion as whether it really is a fair days’ work in relation to reward. The last 10 weeks has shown that the work outputs for many have remained strong. Of course working from home does have its challenges. Juggling the kids’ education and the fact that there is no boundary between work and home because you always feel “on call” are just two .

Video conferencing has also given more focus. There is little benign ‘office chat’ about , the future impact of the human cannonball Greg Inglis or what you had for dinner last night.

It’s more than often straight down to business. Meeting lengths have been shortened partly because of limits on video accounts. Social isolation is another concern.

A recent study of those who have experienced imposed home working stated that 60% would return to a Covid secure office environment. More homeworking will occur as businesses start to cut overheads in what will be a difficult economic climate.

We are now moving into the recovery and restoration phase. The plan for the town will need to incorporate the learning lessons from the movement to the use of communication technology will need to be incorporated into a new social and work narrative. The office is not dead but it will not be the same for some time.