Mine, Yours & Ours – How Covid-19 might change the idea of ownership in the workplace (A 2-minute Read).

May 7, 2020    Chris Hodgson     , ,

The idea of ownership in the workplace has seen some seismic changes in recent years. We’ve shifted away from owned spaces and fixed desks in favour of agile, shared and choice-rich spaces that serve a multitude of different users throughout the day.  But in the face of Covid-19 – is this all set to change? And will we want to share as much?

It’s more than likely that in the short to medium term, the idea of ‘sharing’ will feel alien as our self-preservation instincts kick in.  The in-office canteens, social hubs and breakout spaces that once encouraged socialisation, team work and community will remain unused. Instead, owned spaces will come back into vogue as a necessary way to minimise transmission, keep employees safe and manage the logistics of the workplace.

Sitting on the same chair, using the same keyboard and working from the same desk allows individuals to have a ‘safe’ space, surrounded by items that only they have touched.   It’s not infallible though and it certainly won’t eradicate risk – but it could be one tactic which helps to return life to the nation’s offices when used in tandem with reduced office occupancy, taking lifts out of use, keeping internal doors open, creating hygiene points and putting up protective screens.

At first glance, it might seem to be a step backwards for agility, particularly as it has taken years for some organisations to eradicate the idea of  ‘owned’ desks and the emotional attachment, belonging and status that came with it.

However, a move back to ownership in the workplace doesn’t mean that all agility is lost. To the contrary, the last six weeks have been a celebration of agility at an organisational level as businesses have quickly found new ways to operate under lockdown conditions. They’ve also been about personal agility and resilience too, as employees set up camp in their kitchens, juggled childcare and selected their own collaboration tools, particularly in businesses that had not already begun their agile migration.

The lockdown experience has been a celebration of technology and the agility it enables, whether that’s working at home, in the workplace or on the move. As the country prepares to come out of lockdown and employees get ready to adapt to working between their homes and their offices, agility will continue to be king.  From collaboration technologies like Zoom to project management tools such as Slack right through to company-wide Cloud-based secure storage, digital switchboards, document management solutions and much more – these tools are essential to the agile picture and the resilience of business.

For now Covid-19 has changed the rules and made the very notion of ‘shared’ anything conjure up fear. There is no doubt that this pandemic will change the landscape of the workplace and it will be some time before offices return to bustling hubs of people using shared facilities. What it won’t change is the necessity for agility – both organisational and personal – if businesses are to stand the best chance of survival.


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