The three stages of recovery and the future of work.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, we have deserted our offices. Our offices have suddenly become empty shells. We have gone from a contained office, to a network of people, facilities, documents and ideas. We have gone from a contained structure to a network, where people operate from a multitude of contexts. We now have to operate in a network on contexts. The workplace has become the WorkNet. To read more about how Covid-19 is transforming our offices and our companies, read here our previous article.

The new workplace is a network of contexts, that we call the WorkNet.

The Workplace after Covid-19

In the new WorkNet, interactions become more important that ever. The key question therefore becomes: how do you foster the interactions of your employees in a network of contexts?

At AKKA, we believe that interactions are the seeds of innovation. And so our vision focuses on fostering interactions to drive innovation.

In essence, we focus on helping organisations innovate – whether it is to stay ahead of the war on talent, or to stay ahead of the war on the Coronavirus – by looking at the resource that is their physical environment. Since the seeds of innovation are interactions, we facilitate the right interactions. Fostering interaction, is not about dictating them, but rather about facilitating them. Facilitating interactions is done by creating the contexts where interactions emerge.

Until recently, the context has been the office. That included a new built headquarters, the renovation of an existing building as well as the redesign of an inhabited office. However, since the pandemic hit, the context has expanded to include people’s homes. It now also includes redesigning the workplace to adapt to the 1.5 meters economy. And soon, I predict, it will start to include the 3rd place. As we start to go back to the office, it is very likely that we will have to obey strict regulations. One of which is the 1.5m distancing between people which means that not all employees will be allowed into the office at the same time. So on the days they are not allowed in the office, employees will soon want a 3rd place that is not home. Whether that is a cafe, the library, new forms of coworking spaces or even a new typology that has not emerged yet.

Your WorkNet is a strategic tool that can boost well-being, drive innovation and support the growth of your organisation and its people.

The Workplace after Covid-19
The Workplace after Covid-19
The Workplace after Covid-19
The three stages of recovery

Before Covid-19, most of us used to work in the office (mostly). When Covid-19 hit, we saw an exodus from the office to our homes. After the initial shock, there are three stages of recovery that we can observe.

Stage 1: Our homes need to be redefined. Now that we have to work, live, sleep, educate our children and relax all in the same place, our homes have acquired new meaning and our relationship to our homes is being redefined. This is happening whether we like it or not. It would be much better if we redefined our homes intentionally. Read this three-part article for specific advise regarding how to redefine your home and help your employees do the same.

Stage 2: Soon (we hope), we will be allowed to go back to work. However, nothing will be the same as before. First of all, going back to work will not mean not working from home anymore, we will need to embrace both. Second, going back to work will not mean we are going back to the same office we left. The office will need to be redesigned to adapt to the new restrictions and guidelines of the 1.5m economy, so employees can go back to work safely. Read this article about how to adapt your workplace to the 1.5m economy and why it is crucial to do so now, with no further delay.

Stage 3: I personally predict that after stages 1 and 2, and once the travel restrictions have loosened a little bit, some people will get tired of having to work from home on the days they are not part of the “50% of the workforce that is allowed in the office”1. They will start searching for a 3rd place to work from. Whether that is a cafe, a library or a co-working space, none of them will be as we have known them. All of these locations will have to be redefined and redesigned.

So the question is, how can you as a workplace professional,

  • Foster the interactions of employees at home?
  •  Adapt your workplace to the 1.5m economy?
  • Support employees in the 3rd places?

Really? You may ask. Yes. Now that working from outside the office is an imposed company measure, rather than an employee’s choice, your scope and role as an HR manager, a Facility manager or even a Corporate Real Estate manager has expanded.

The future of work is working in a network of contexts. The Workplace is now the WorkNet. Your WorkNet is now your most valuable asset. How will you use your WorkNET is a strategic tool to support, engage and nurture your employees going forward?

We are at a turning point, a decision point. There can be no return to normal. In fact, in Hong Kong, graffiti reads: “There can be no return to normal because normal was the problem in the first place”2. Over decades, we have seen the workplace evolve through the four questions of utility, productivity, engagement and experience. The shock of this crisis has thrown us back into the basic question of utility, with an extra emphasis on safety. From this point onwards, my personal hope is that we don’t go back to the old normal. I do not think that we should go through the evolution of the four questions again either. My personal hope is that instead, we leapfrog into a higher question of meaning: “How do we reshape our world of work to serve a higher purpose?”.

The future of work is working in a network of contexts. The Workplace is now the WorkNet. Your WorkNet is now your most valuable asset. Your WorkNet is a strategic tool to support your employees health and wellbeing, and boost the entire organisation. It is an opportunity to elevate the entire company and all its people. A well designed workNet can nurture the well-being of people and the success of the entire organisation going forward.

There is no question that we are going through a global transition. During any transition, there are only three types of people, those who make things happen, those who watch things happen and those who say ‘What happened?’ Which one will you be?

To find out how optimising your workplace these difficult days  in order to increase employees interactions and keep them engaged, download here the book The Power of  Interactions.

Align and Engage your entire workforce to achieve massive growth in your Organisation.

How is COVID-19 transforming our offices and our companies?

We have all heard it, we are in a crisis. What you may not have heard is that the root of the word ‘crisis’ actually means decision point. Isn’t that a much more empowering way to look at the situation we are in? When it comes the our workplaces, what decision(s) do we need to take now in order to create a future of work that is healthy, compelling and successful?

In the world of work, decades ago, the question was one of utility: “what do employees need to work”. This became a question of productivity: “what do employees need to work better and faster”. This then became a question of engagement “How can we make employees happy so they perform better”. More recently – and before the Cover-19 pandemic changed everything -, the question was no more one of engagement, but had become one of experience: “How can we create a company where people want to show up even though they might not need to show up?”1

Now that the Covid-19 pandemic has hit, the question has been changed again. The shock of this crisis jolted us back to the basics and the question is once more one of utility, with a special emphasis on safety: “what do employees need to work safely?”. This applies both to working from home and working from the office, when we start going back.

The question is once again one of utility, with an emphasis on safety: “what do employees need to work safely?”

Akka Architects Blog_new workplace
Redefining the workplace

The workplace is not the equivalent of the office space. The workplace was never about the office alone. It has always been about the full experience. In any organisation, and ever since organisations started forming, the workplace experience has been the result of three environments.  

1. The physical environment. This is the space in which employees actually work, our surroundings, including the closed offices or open floor plans employees sit in, the furniture, the art on the walls, the catered meals the organisation offers…etc. Now that most of us are working from home, this physical environment has been redefined.

2. The technological environment. This comprises the tools that we use to communicate, collaborate and actually get our work done. This includes hardware, software, user interface and design. This too has been redefined since the pandemic started and we have been working remotely. People have discovered that what we thought was nearly impossible actually works, and we have all developed love or hate relationships with numerous videoconferencing softwares and platforms.

3. The cultural environment. This is the environment you may not be able to touch or see but you can definitely feel. It is the vibe of your organisation, wether created intentionally or not. The culture of your organisation is what determines how employees are treated and how they behave, their values, unspoken rules and even how they do their work. This is also, without a doubt been redefined in light of the unprecedented times we are living through.

The workplace was never about the office alone. It has always been about the full experience. Workplace experience is made of three environments. And as each of the three undergo a transformation, the workplace experience is now being fundamentally redefined. With the hit of the pandemic, we have deserted our offices. The office is an empty shell. We have gone from a contained office, to a network of people, facilities, and documents. Of course, this is not the first time that a company works digitally. In fact, there are numerous decentralised companies out there that already function as a network. What is new is that we are now forced to take those learnings and apply them at an unprecedented scale and to an unprecedented extent.

The workplace experience is now being fundamentally redefined.

Akka Architects Blog_new workplace
From a box to a network

A network is made of nodes and connections. Think of the nodes as the people, the spaces (our homes in this instance), the softwares, the hardware…etc. A lot has already been said about the nodes and how to optimise them. While the nodes are very important, we also need to ask: how do you nurture the connections and interactions in between? Without the walls containing the network, the connections become more important than ever. So let’s zoom in onto one of these connections. Each one of the connections linking two nodes in a network is a relationship. When nurtured, put into action, activated, a relationship becomes an interaction. An interaction is a living relationship.

So the question is how do we, as workplace professionals (whether HR, FM, CRE or architects and designers for that matter) foster and nurture these interactions? That’s what the question has always been, or at least should have been even before the pandemic.  

Now consider this: every interaction happens in a context. The context is physical or digital, visible or intangible, intentional or unconscious. So the question now becomes: how do we, as workplace professionals, nurture interactions without the help of the container? The glass is broken, how do you keep the water together? How do we nurture interactions, in contexts that may be unfamiliar, and even invisible from where we stand as workplace professionals (such as someone’s home) and that we can’t influence, or at least haven’t so far?

The new workplace is a network of contexts, that we call the WorkNet.

Suddenly, the scope of every workplace professional out there has now been expanded. We need to acknowledge that the workplace has changed. We now have to operate in a network on contexts. The workplace has become the WorkNet. And in a network of contexts, like any network, the interactions become the most crucial thing. 

In the new WorkNet, interactions become more important that ever. The key question therefore becomes: how do you foster the interactions of your employees in a network of contexts? 

Based on Winston’s Churchill’s ‘Never waster a good crisis’, I leave you with this question: how will you turn this crisis, this decision point into an opportunity to learn from today and design a tomorrow that is better than yesterday?

 We believe that space is a strategic tool that can foster interactions, and any added value or innovation, small or large, starts with interactions. Interactions are the seeds of innovation. At the intersection of the main forms of interaction – creativity, collaboration and learning –added value emerges. Are you interested in learning about our vision at AKKA and how it can help you these difficult days? Download here the excerpt of the book The Power of Interactions.

Align and Engage your entire workforce to achieve massive growth in your Organisation.

How do we get our workplaces ready to go back to work after Coronavirus?

As French President Emmanuel Macron described COVID-19, the enemy we are fighting is elusive and invisible. However, the implications and consequences of our fight are visible and blatant and will remain to be so for a while. Based on how things are developing around the world, it is safe to say that nothing will be the same as before. Until vaccines are developed or until herd immunity is established, returning to normal will not be an option. So what might our new normal be?

The workplace, is by nature, a place where people gather and it represents a huge risk of setting off another wave if not managed carefully. Instead of being a risk area, how can we use the workplace as an important arena for epidemic prevention?

Akka Architects Workplace Design after Coronavirus

As some countries that have been ahead of the curve try and restart their economies, we start to see people go back to work. The workplace however is by nature a place where people gather and it is therefore at huge risk of setting off another wave if not managed carefully. So instead of being a risk area, how can we use the workplace as an “important arena for epidemic prevention1”.

Coming out of lockdown is likely to be a gradual process, heavily restricted by a number of measures. Taking its name from the main measure of keeping 1.5m distance between people, what will our 1.5m society look like? After the lockdown period is over -however long it may be- the question of ‘Do we work from home or do we go back to the office?’ will not be enough. The questions we should ask are: What kind of workplace can we go back to? What would it take to make going back to the office work? and how do we adapt our workplaces to the 1.5m economy?

Studies are indicating a two year lead time in the best case scenario for a vaccine to be developed, tested and ready for the masses2. This means that we are not talking about a matter of a week or a month, but of at least two years. During that period, we hope to be able to function again, as a society, even if in a sub-optimal way or under strict requirements. What does that mean for the workplace? It means that our workplaces will need to be fundamentally different. And since this is a matter of years, not months, it is well worth it to approach adapting your workplace as seriously as it would have been to design it in the first place. In fact, let me rephrase that, it should be approached much more seriously. We are dealing here with life or death, literally. 

The questions we should ask are: What kind of workplace can we go back to? What would it take to make going back to the office work? How do we adapt our workplaces to the 1.5m economy?

Akka Architects Workplace Design after Coronavirus

So, when the time comes, what can be some of the strategies to resume work without setting off another wave of infections?

Based on the latest health reports, and the few asian companies that are going back to work, we round up here the list of measures taken in some of the workplaces. While not all measures may be applied in all companies, they often include firm workplace rules, rigorous testing, travel restrictions, and comprehensive smartphone tracking.

  • Employees are required to wear masks all day. In some companies, wearing the mask is tied to employees’ performance KPIs. 
  • Employees’ temperature is taken multiple times a day. In some instances, infrared cameras – in addition to security staff- are being used to that effect. 
  • Everyone is discouraged from taking public transport
  • Most companies have established a rotation of the employees through the office. They are splitting their workforce into shifts and only allowing specific groups in the office at each given time. This results in a maximum of 50% of employees allowed into the workplace each day. 
  • The desks on the work floor have been rearranged so that employees are spaced by at least 1.5 meter. 
  • Some companies have arranged for food to be delivered to employees at their desks, so that movement is reduced and employees eat alone. In other instances, employees are seated one per table at the cafeteria, therefore ensuring enough space in between themselves, while also using cardboard ‘face shields’ to place around themselves and their meal, while they eat with masks off. 
  • The elevator floors have been marked with tape to keep people from standing too close to each other. 
  • Traffic to the coffee machine is regulated. 
  • Face to face meetings are discouraged
  • Workspaces and facilities are decontaminated three times a day. 
  • Some companies have implemented a daily health questionnaire within their internal app that employees are required to fill in. Based on their answers, they are assigned a colour code that allows them or forbids them entering the office every morning, under the checks of security staff.

Start now to think about how your workplace needs to be adapted to the 1.5m economy, and remember to find a way to engage your people in this process.

Adapting the workplace to the 1.5m economy is not simply about creating more space in between people. Arriving into the office is sounding more like an emergency drill than the pleasant social encounter it used to be. Most companies will have to implement an arrival routine that will include checking people’s temperatures, equipping them with gloves, masks and strict instructions. How will our workplaces look when the reception becomes a hybrid between an infirmary and a security checkpoint? What happens to our meeting rooms, when a 12 people boardroom can only host 3 people? How can we ever use the elevators safely and efficiently? What about the coffee machine and the bathrooms? What about corridors that do not always have a 1.5m width available? And all this may be even worse if you work in a high-rise3

While all of these may be sound and necessary measures, they are all physical measures. What about the social, psychological and emotional dimensions of employees’ well-being? Will the paranoia that is reigning in the supermarkets now accompany us to the workplace? Will we be torn between the joy of reuniting with a friend at work and the paranoia of wondering if he/she will be the one to get us ill? Will we gain new reflexes every time a human being gets close? Will we see every person around us as a threat?

Take for example the case of people eating alone in the cafeteria, hunched over their meal, with their faces hidden behind cardboard shields. Will this situation and many others, become so unpleasant that people choose to avoid the workplace and work from home? While necessary, these measures may have serious and irreversible implications on employee’s engagement and well-being. And while we do not have all, or maybe any of the answers, it is essential that we start asking the right questions. In order to ask the right questions and have even a fighting chance when it comes to the right answers, there is only one proven approach you can rely on: find a way to engage your employees in a participatory process. While the process that will suit every company will be different, it is essential that people are engaged in a participatory process and that the questions and answers are a collective effort.

Akka Architects Workplace Design after Coronavirus

Now that your employees are still working from home is in fact the ideal time to start thinking about how do you adapt your workplace to the 1.5m economy. Just like we have seen with governments, a ‘wait and see’ approach never helps. So instead of finding yourself late and in reaction mode once people are allowed back to the office, start now to think about how your workplace needs to be adapted to the 1.5m economy, and remember to find a way to engage your people in this process.

Will the coronavirus change the way we work, long after the virus is history? Will we abandon the workplace, with many more permanently working from home? Or will we return to all our past practices once this episode is over? In fact, if you think about it, the worst thing that can happen is that we indeed return to all our past habits and practices, as if nothing happened. That would be a total waste of an incredible opportunity to learn from our failures and the weaknesses of our systems. This is an opportunity to learn from the present, in order to design a future, that is fundamentally better than our past. 

As Winston Churchill said “Never waste a good crisis”. 

Would you like to be oriented about what you can do to start adapting your workplace to the 1.5 meter economy and how you can engage your employees in the process?

Request here a Free Professional Consultation of your Workplace, in which AKKA Architects will help you prepare your organisation to go back to work.

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How do you create a successful prolonged period of working from home by strengthening your routine, your space, and your mentality?

If like most of us, you have now been working from home for a couple of weeks already, you might be feeling a shift in the dynamic, as the novelty of the situation starts to wear off.

Before the novelty transforms into a burden, take a moment to optimise your ‘working from home’ situation.

This article is part three of a three-part piece and will focus on the third level, your mentality. If you missed them, go back to part one where we discussed the first level, yourself, and part two where we explored your physical space.

Your mentality: It’s all in your head

The routine tips and the senses anchors discussed in the previous parts of this article are all helpful. They do however not end in themselves, they are means designed to support your mentality. At the end of the day, it is your mentality, your psychology and your emotional fortitude that are the goal as well as the key to not only surviving this period but indeed striving in it.

After the initial phase of taking refuge at home, it is essential you start establishing a helpful routine for yourself while you oscillate between your two worlds of work and home, all without leaving your apartment. So, after you have secured shelter and established a helpful routine, the next step is about elevating your mentality. Follow these two steps to taking full control of your mind, and striving during this period.

Reframe
Cognitive reframing is a psychological technique that consists in
proactively viewing and experiencing events, ideas, concepts and emotions to find more positive alternatives1. Here’s a simple example, instead of viewing this situation as ‘being stuck at home’, choose to view it as the staycation you’ve always talked about but never did, or the downtime you knew you needed but never took. Granted, if you have young kids at home, the staycation framing may be difficult to believe. In that case, you want might to frame this time as quality time and the bonding opportunity of a lifetime. Whatever frame you choose, make sure it is one you can believe and get behind.

Re-direct
Even though this situation is in most cases, imposed on us, make the
effort to see this time as a choice. You may have not chosen to stay home, but there are endless choices you can make within the restrictions imposed by the situation. Focus on what you can control and what you can choose. You are still the director here. Ask not what will happen to us, but rather, what do we want to happen. Take back the controls, even mentally of your own situation and create choices even within the restrictions imposed.

Re-purpose
You can live through this time or you can actually live it. After you reframe and redirect, now it’s time to repurpose. Give this period a meaning, an intention, a purpose. A purpose can be anything that has meaning to you, from learning something new to reinventing your work. No ideas what your purpose could be? Ask yourself this: what can you do right now to help your community? When this is all over, what will the world need? No matter how small or large your ideas are, giving your time at home a purpose will prove immensely valuable to you, and maybe even others.

When it comes to your workplace, being a facilitator means creating situations that are incomplete, impermanent and imperfect. This will very subtly invite employees in your organisations to ‘fill in the gaps’ and share implicit feedback through their behaviour, often unconsciously. This gives you valuable feedback, hints, and insights into what employee experience would suit them best.

Conclusion

Most of us have been working from home for a couple of weeks now. As the honeymoon period comes to an end, the novelty of the situation is starting to wear off and you may be feeling less excited about not having to commute and more nervous about facing another day in this now blurred work home-world of yours. Before the novelty transforms into a burden, take a moment to optimise your ‘working from home’ situation. In this three-part article, we have looked at what you can put in place, right now, to optimise your experience, enhance your wellbeing and preserve your mental health during this unprecedented period. After you secure shelter, establish healthy routines and then create a purpose for yourself. If we all did that, we just might be able to turn this global affliction into a worldwide opportunity to create a better future.

Do you need help applying these tips and ideas to your specific situation? Request your FREE PERSONAL ADVICE now, by asking our very own CEO your most burning question. Fill in the form below with your question and Stephanie will get back to you with her advice.
 
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