Post-Covid-19 Workplace: What awaits us?
Before the covid-19 pandemic, the workplace was a well-defined entity with certain borders between work and home. Nowadays, our workplaces and homes have been intertwined as the majority of the world is still working from home. Whether you enjoy working from home or not, this new way of working has definitely made a significant impact on the workplace dynamics as well as our needs and expectations as employees. In this article, we will explore some workplace models that are currently in place but also some that may be awaiting us post-corona.
Our workplaces and homes have been intertwined as the majority of the world is still working from home.
1.Working from home
At this very moment, most of us are working from home, as the pandemic continues to unfold. In most cases, we have gotten the hang of working from home even though it means we are confined in small spaces for longer periods of time and by ourselves instead of with colleagues. Another challenge many business leaders are facing is training staff who are new to the company.1 It is more difficult for a team leader to train a new employee online than in real person. It is also more difficult for the mployee to get a sense of the company culture from their own kitchen table. There are many downsides to working from home but it has also its benefits. The Boston Consultancy Group has conducted internal research on the future of the workplace, recording responses from 12,000 employees worldwide, and surprisingly found out that a large number of employees have been able to maintain or even improve their productivity during the pandemic.2 Whether they have saved time on their morning commute and spent that extra hour on self-development or they have adopted a flexible working schedule and improved their organizational skills. As the pandemic subsides, we can see a trend emerging where employers will allow their employees more flexibility in choosing where they work, and when they work where.
2. Working from the office
While some companies have already allowed a portion of their workforce to come back to the office, adopting a hybrid model, many people are still looking forward to the day they can go back to the office. However, it would be wrong to assume that we can pick up where we left off and return to the same office we left and use it as we did before. If you are interested in diving into the specifics of a possible phased recovery, you might enjoy one of our earlier articles here. Employees’ expectations towards what an office space means have evolved tremendously during the last year. Employers need to acknowledge these changes, maybe even discover what they are first (since they are not always obvious or apparent) and adapt to this new era of working from the office. For instance, Alan Jobe, the chief executive of Unilever, has said that his office workers will never return to their desks five days a week and that way of working seems very old-fashioned now.3 It is fair to say that the era of working from the office full time has officially ended. Now, after experiencing that a lot of the work can actually be done from home effectively, managers are starting to realise how they can change the office dynamics and allow for a more productive environment, which will add value to people’s lives and become something more than just a ‘workplace’. The increasing need for social connectivity has boosted different technological adaptations and allowed for collaborative work to take place, regardless of the spatial confinement. Post-covid-19, companies will primarily focus on creating sustainable competitive advantage by having a workspace that will allow both collaboration and focused work to take place. The office as a place of work is not a default anymore. It needs to prove itself now, and convince us what its added value is and why it should have a place in the future of work.
Employees’ expectations towards what an office space means have evolved tremendously during the last year.
3.The Hybrid Model
The Hybrid working model is simply a combination of working at the office and from home and maybe even from a cafe or a co-working space, when those are open again. At the moment, it seems that the Hybrid model is by far the most popular amongst what we have discussed so far because of the mere fact that it provides options that can combine the best of both worlds. By adopting a Hybrid working model, companies can provide a sustainable solution to their employees by giving them flexibility and the option to choose upon their personal preferences. Not all hybrid models are created equal though, and every organisation will have to find the hybrid solution that suits its company culture best. While employees should be able to choose what works for them best, a new role emerges for the team leaders, whose responsibility it becomes to make sure that individual choices do not undermine the collective interest of the team, department and entire company. Employers will need to find the balance that supports individual choices as well asn enrich the collective dynamic. As mentioned earlier, Unilever is looking into investing in this Hybrid model after seeing how fast they have adopted working from home and they are planning on exploring different working patterns in the post-covid-19 era.4 Another insightful market research sheds light on this topic from a managerial perspective. The Fortune/Deloitte CEO Survey5, conducted over the first two weeks of January 2021 with more than 100 CEO participants, found out that 75% of the CEOs think there will be less office space required than before the pandemic. Only 21% think there will be no change in regards to an office space requirement and 4% believe there will be more office space requirement afterwards. Overall, CEOs anticipate a reduction in office space in comparison to 2019 and will permanently adopt the working from home model into their businesses. In the year 2022, CEOs are still expecting more than one-third of their employees to continue working from home. This shows that virtual workplaces and digital meetings are here to stay.
There are no right or wrong answers when it comes to which model is the most efficient or valuable for your organisation. One can prefer to work from home, from the office or from a 3rd place or even combine them all according to the type of task or the dynamic of the day. Different companies will adopt different models according to their own business models and company cultures.
Coming out of lockdown is likely to be a gradual process, heavily restricted by a number of measures. 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 1.5 meters economy? What about the social, psychological and emotional dimensions of employees’ well-being? If you are looking for help in how to understand your employees’ new needs and expectations and how to create the perfect Hybrid model that suits your organisation, get in touch! We have been helping our clients create a new way of working transform their workplaces we would be happy to assist you too.
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