Many businesses are now starting to think about how their space will look once we return to ‘The New Normal’ and they are keen to introduce a new functionality to their offices. They are also naturally quite excited about the potential significant cost savings through possibly needing less space.
However, any change to the office environment is only half of the equation. Employers have the same responsibilities for home workers as for any other workers. They will need to ensure they are set up correctly and are in regular communication so that they do not become isolated or feel abandoned.
To some extent, the Genie is out of the bottle regarding home working and whilst it doesn’t work for many, it does work well for a lot of people and it is hard to imagine that it won’t continue on a much greater scale than before.
This presents a problem in so much as there is no real substitute for face to face meetings and if we are going to travel to our place of work to meet people, we need to know that they are going to be there and not working from home themselves. The tendency could therefore be either not bother or arrange a video conference. Our place of work then becomes less important and we lose all the benefits of those impromptu meetings that workplaces have been striving to promote.
One of the negatives of working from home has been the lack of structure and discipline. I think that any ‘New Normal’ workspace consultation will need to include a procedure of how companies are going to manage the days when their staff do come into the office and when they remain at home. The aim must surely be that staff meet up on a rotational basis. They should have a routine so that when they do come in, they know who else will be in on that day and meetings can be planned accordingly. Over a given period, this sort of timetable approach will give everyone the opportunity to be together at some point. It doesn’t have to be overly rigid as people are always available on video conference if they need to be but lots of people need face to face time.
Any reduction in travelling will help the environment and hopefully reduce the overcrowding on public transport, making it a much less stressful experience.
On a more radical note, how about if some of the empty shops and department stores that have either gone out of business or just deserted the high street were re-purposed into co-working office spaces with working areas, breakout spaces and video conferencing rooms and a high speed internet connection . Most suburb and satellite town high streets where people live have empty units like this. Surely this would be the perfect situation for anyone who is hankering for social contact in an office situation. A short walk, cycle ride or bus journey gets them to a place where the can function as they want to. It would be run on a membership basis a bit like the local gym. I see a potential high street revival here.
The home working set up is another whole topic so I will save that for next time. If in the meantime anyone would like to discuss how the New Office might look and how they can get the best out of the home working experience then please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org
We are discussing all this and more now with lots of our clients and would be happy to share a number of different ideas and experiences with you.