The new workplace
Over the past year, the pandemic has forced the adoption of new ways of working for a number of companies. For many, it was not a matter of choice. Organizations have been forced to re-imagine their work and the need to create a safe and productive environment for their employees. While working from home is a challenge for many, surveys have indicated that most employees not only are adjusting to their new workplace, but actually prefer it. Despite the unprecedented operational challenges presented by the pandemic, many companies have risen up, acting quickly to protect employees and migrate to a new way of working that even the most extreme business continuity plans did not have. considered. As the corporate world slowly recovers, we should expect a new normal, as most businesses will use the lessons of this large-scale home work experience to reimagine how work is done and how it works. role that the physical workplace should play in more creativity and bold ways thus defining the new workplace.
Before the pandemic, conventional wisdom was that offices were essential for productivity, culture and, most importantly, for attracting talent. Top-notch office space in large urban centers was actively sought after by companies that needed to demonstrate their success and corporate culture. The speed and efficiency with which video conferencing technologies and other forms of digital collaboration have been adopted is indeed surprising. But the results are even more surprising.
According to a recent study, the majority of people questioned liked working from home but above all they felt more or as productive. With the ever increasing size of large cities and the enormous burden on public transport; closures and working from home have freed many employees from long commutes and commutes.
With a substantial time savings, many found more productive ways to spend that time, enjoyed more flexibility to balance their personal and professional lives, and decided they preferred to work from home rather than the office.
The success of this model has also forced a number of organizations to rethink their workplace strategy. Many companies now believe they can access new talent pools with less location constraints, adopt innovative processes to increase productivity, create an even stronger culture and at the same time significantly reduce their real estate costs.
As more workplaces reopen, they have been forced to make the necessary changes and go through complex SOPs. Many companies require employees to wear masks at all times, rearrange spaces to ensure physical distancing, and restrict movement in congested areas (for example, elevators, meeting rooms, and cafeterias). As a result, even after reopening, attitudes towards offices are changing, with most companies trying to create a balanced / hybrid model with alternative home and office work options.
The expected overhaul of the new workplace also raises a number of questions. Satisfaction or preference aside, it should be understood that the productivity or flexibility that people experience working from home is the product of social capital accumulated through countless hours of employee interaction, conversations, meetings and social commitments before the onset of the crisis. This could not have been possible through online engagement alone.
Today’s employees were part of a strong corporate culture that could not have existed without physical interaction. As we continue to redefine the new workplace, will these online or working from home models really continue to remain productive or beneficial or will corporate cultures and communities erode over time without interaction? physical? Will there be less mentoring and talent development? Has homework been successful only because it is seen as temporary and not permanent?
The new workplace will undoubtedly change; however, the office must continue to exist as part of this new workplace, although to some extent its use may be redefined. Different companies’ business models vary, as do their corresponding needs and requirements. Most importantly, each individual is different. Many enjoyed this new experience; however others are tired of it. When the productivity of some of the employees has increased; for others, it has diminished. Many forms of virtual collaboration work well; others don’t.
The typical office might become a thing of the past, but it cannot cease to exist for any of the employees. The unexpected remote working experience has exceeded expectations due to the massive adoption of collaboration technologies. It also reset expectations for the future, as it opened up new possibilities for the flexibility that employees can have in choosing how and where to work. In fact, more and more companies are now considering flexible models. The future will be hybrid, but the proportions of working from home and time in the office will need to be balanced. Physical interaction is necessary, but the most critical problem is learning the ideal frequency of this interaction in the new normal.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution. The answer, different for each organization, will be based on the talents needed, the most important roles, the degree of collaboration required for excellence and the current location of the offices, among other factors. Even within an organization, the answer may be different across geographies, businesses, and functions, so the exercise of determining what will be needed in the future will require information on real estate, human resources, technology and business.
Most businesses will need their HR teams and strategic team leaders to rethink and define their work needs by effectively identifying what can be done remotely, and what roles need to be performed in person, and to what extent. .
Interestingly, this also redefines the HR strategy because for tasks that can be easily managed remotely, finding talent can become easier, as the pool of available talent might have fewer geographic constraints. In fact, talented people could live in cities of their choice, which may have a lower cost of living and closeness to the people and places they love, while working for top organizations. This approach could be a winning proposition for employers and employees, with profound effects on the quality of talent an organization can access and the cost of that talent.
These changes can not only improve the way work is done, but also lead to savings. Rent, capital costs, operation, maintenance and facilities management make real estate the most important cost category outside of employee salaries for many organizations.
While some companies may have already started to rethink their workplace strategy with a focus on reducing costs, leveraging alternative workplace models, and revising approaches to space management. , most companies have yet to understand how these changes are redefining the new workplace.
As most of these companies mull over which solution is best for them, the new changes in the workplace that we can expect in the near future are similar for all. Technology will take the lead in transforming the workplace. The work experience will become more digital: instead of the traditional pre-assigned workspaces, there will be shared pools allowing the reservation of rooms and workspaces via an app, as easily as a single click of a smartphone. Smart conference spaces, collaboration areas and lounges (among other designs) that inspire the collision of ideas and creativity will define the new workplace and the traditional hierarchical workspace model will no longer be necessary. .
The new workplace is the new normal and continues to evolve. However, the challenge for leading companies in the changing new workplace will be to protect what they cherish most: their work ethic and corporate culture.