The pandemic caused by COVID-19 has forced the adoption of new forms of work. Organizations must reimagine their work and the role of offices in creating safe, productive and enjoyable jobs and lives for employees.
The coronavirus has brought many challenges in the business field. Many organizations around the world have seized the occasion, acting quickly to protect employees and migrate to a new way of working: teleworking.
Leading companies are thinking about how the work should be done and what the role of the office is from now on. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. The answer, different for each organization, will be based on what talent is needed, what roles are the most important, how much collaboration is required for excellence and where the offices are located today, among other factors.
Even within an organization, the answer may be different depending on location, business, and roles, so the exercise of determining what will be needed in the future should be teamwork. Difficult decisions can arise and a leader must be trained to drive the effort through individual functions and companies. Change will also require exceptional change management skills and pillars based on how remote work evolves over time.
Four Steps To Reinvent Work And Offices With COVID-19
1) Reconstruct How The Work Is Done
Companies have adapted to the new situation to continue collaborating and ensure that the most important processes can be carried out remotely. Therefore, organizations must identify and re-visualize the most important processes for each business, location and main function, with the participation of employees. This effort should analyze professional development (for example, being physically present in the office at the beginning and working remotely afterwards) and the different stages of the projects (such as being present in the office for initial planning and working remotely for execution).
Companies must also reflect on their values and culture and on the interactions and practices that promote that corporate culture. An organization that focuses on developing talent, for example, should continue with staff training in the online arena.
Reimagining and rebuilding processes and practices will serve as the foundation for an improved operating model that takes advantage of the better of work both in person and remotely.
2) Decide “people to work” or “work for people”
In recent years, the competition for talent has been fiercer than ever. As organizations reconstruct how they work and identify what can be done remotely, they can make decisions about what roles they should play in person and to what extent.
These roles can be reclassified into employee segments considering the value that remote work can offer:
- Completely remote work.
- Hybrid remote work.
- Hybrid remote work by exception (if necessary).
- I work in the office.
For roles in the first two categories, additional training is key, but talent search may be easier as it has fewer geographic restrictions. This approach could be a good proposal for both companies and employees.
3) Redesign The Office To Support The Organization’s Priorities
Few offices have been intentionally designed to support specific organizational priorities. Although workspaces have changed somewhat in the past decade, they may need to be completely transformed for a post-COVID-19 world.
For example, should 80% of the office be dedicated to collaboration rooms? Should organizations ask all employees who work in cubicles, and rarely have to attend group meetings, to telecommute? If office space is needed only for those who can’t telecommute, are workspaces near where employees live a better solution?
In the office of the future, technology will play a central role in enabling employees to return to their workplaces and perform their duties safely before a vaccine is available. Organizations will need to manage which employees can go to the office, when they can take their places, how often the workspace is cleaned, if the airflow is sufficient, and if they are kept far enough apart as they move through the space.
To maintain productivity, collaboration, learning, and preserve corporate culture, the boundaries between being physically in the office and out of the office must be removed. Always-on video conferencing, remote and in-person collaboration spaces (like virtual whiteboards), and working models will quickly shift from futuristic ideas to standard practices.
4) Change Workplaces Creatively
A transformative approach will be necessary to reinvent offices. Businesses will need to re-analyze how much and where space is required and how to foster desired results for collaboration, productivity, culture and work experience. That kind of approach will also involve questioning where offices should be located. Some companies will continue to have them in big cities, which many consider essential to attract young talent and create a sense of connection and energy. Others may leave the headquarters of the big city for suburban campuses.
In either case, the next transformation will use a portfolio of spatial solutions: Own Space, Standard Leases, Flexible Leases, Flexible Space, Shared Workspace, and Remote Work.
These changes cannot only improve the way work is done, but also lead to savings. In a world with and after COVID-19, the potential to reduce real estate costs could be significant. Over time, some organizations may reduce these costs by 30%. Those who switch to a fully virtual model could almost eliminate them.
Now Is The Time
As companies around the world experiment with returning employees to offices, leadership must act now to ensure that when they return, the workplace is productive and safe.
Organizations must also take advantage of this moment to break the inertia of the past, disregarding old habits and suboptimal systems. A well-planned return to offices can reinvent your role and create a better talent experience, improve collaboration and productivity, and reduce costs. Ultimately, the goal of this reinvention will be what good companies have always wanted: safe environments where people can enjoy their work, collaborate with colleagues, and achieve the goals of their organizations.