Life After Covid Series: Ditch the desks (A 3- minute read).

April 24, 2020    Chris Hodgson     ,

Life with and after Covid19 will see remote working become the new norm and as such, it will require organisations to reinvent the workplace.

The challenge for employers will be to make workplaces add greater value – both to their employees’ experience of work and to the business as a whole – and somewhere that employees want, rather than have to be.  This will require a paradigm shift in how management view their employees, support their needs, curate their experience of work and approach their overheads and it’s a change that’s already started.   The lasts few weeks have laid some of the groundwork, particularly in relation to trusting employees to be productive even when they’re out of sight and recognising the need for agility in business.

The lockdown experience will, of course, prompt some business leaders to revaluate their property needs altogether. They will ask whether they need sizeable city centre offices for a team of 200 and if a smaller client hub, with significantly less overheads, could work just as well in home-working era. With wider economic pressure, financial uncertainty and a new set of work-life behaviours coming to the fore, the future of the workplace is up for review.

One of the biggest changes we expect to see is that the office will cease to be the fixed everyday location for all staff. Instead it will become an experiential brand hub for more occasional and dynamic visits that are centred around face-to-face collaboration, innovation and knowledge sharing.

Already we are helping organisations to look at how they can reapportion space and provide the flexibility, interaction and collaboration their employees will need to thrive.  This will almost certainly see much less space dedicated to rows of formal desking, in favour of more:

Collaboration-led spaces

When lockdown ends there will still be many reasons why people want and need to come together, but it won’t be to just sit at static desks, it will be to collaborate.  Creating a range of spaces that suit collaboration and team work will be important.  If they are well designed, creative, dynamic and equipped with the right technology and tools, they will help to make the workplace relevant and provide compelling reasons why teams should choose to work there. These spaces will need to give due consideration to virtual collaboration too – allowing remote workers to join in with face-to-face discussions and use collaboration tools in real time.

Community minded spaces

Sociability is the glue that binds us and we’re all now realising how important human connections are to the quality of our lives and emotional resilience. So when lockdown ends, we will crave much more human connection and sociability.    Employers will be keen to factor greater sociability and a positive culture into their workplaces to help employee belonging and unlock the commercial benefits we know it delivers – namely that friends and connections at work make people more loyal and productive.

Many businesses have already made great strides in this area, by including gaming areas, on-site cafes, roof running tracks, yoga studios and libraries and we can expect to see more of these community-minded tools.  There’s also likely to be much greater focus on forging a sense of community digitally. Video collaboration tools such as zoom can enable virtual staff socials and tools such as Workplace by Facebook can help to bring workplace community to life, even when you’re working at home.

Client suites

We expect to see more focus on new and improved client suites as offices morph into  brand hubs for client meetings.   Client suites will become much more prominent, particularly if meetings become one of the prime reasons employees come into the office, and these facilities could take up a much larger proportion of office floor plates.  These suites will continue to offer a blend of touchdown concierge spaces as well as informal and formal meeting rooms and will be tech-enabled to make it easy for physical and remote teams to work together. These spaces will also be much bolder in the way they bring brands and organisational goals and values to life.

Summary

Although this pandemic has quickened some of the workplace changes we were already seeing, the level of economic and financial uncertainty it has brought has made them even more imperative to business survival. Greater agility, a new look at overheads and a changing set of employee wants, needs and expectations are rewriting the rule book. Covid19 has changed the way we work forever and the workplace must soon be able to offer what remote working cannot – the human touch.

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