The New Normal

We have spent a lot of time discussing with our existing and new clients how they may get back to work safely and how the workplace needs to be modified to allow this after the easing of Lockdown.

Many clients are now saying that they have been working well enough remotely that they are in no hurry to return to the office until it is completely safe to do so. If that means the autumn or even the end of the year, then so be it. They are more concerned how office space will function in the long term, having adjusted their working patterns over the last few months.

Most companies have at least realised that they probably do not need so much space. With space being such an expensive fixed cost, it is certainly worth considering how much is needed and how best to use it.

Empty offices around the country

It is still very uncertain how things will change. There are both positive and negative experiences to be taken from the enforced ‘Working from Home’ (WFH) regime and many different opinions as to how the working environment may change or not.

Some people are forecasting that we will very quickly go back to how we were before and if you look at the recent overcrowding of tourist hot spots, they could be right. Others are saying that there will be a very different ‘New Normal’

One thing I am certain of is that people are much more open to the idea of change that they would have been before the lockdown. Many people have realised that things that were just impossible to conceive just three months ago actually are not too dramatic after all. This will apply, in particular to how they view their working structure.

Possible office layout in the future

Companies can now review how they operate so that they can create the right environment for the future and possibly save space and money. Starting this process now will enable them to take staff with them on this journey before we all drift back to how it was before, and the opportunity will be lost. With this in mind we are conducting E Surveys to better understand how things have gone and what we want from the future.

So, let us have a look at the positives and the negatives we have found so far about WFH, they will vary from person to person to a point where someone’s positive is another person’s negative. It may well be that what started as a positive has now become a negative, largely because there is no lifestyle balance.

Positives

• Improved productivity with more time to do what is required and less disruption or distraction.
• Easy to arrange meetings through Video Conferencing whilst everyone is at home. Meetings start and generally finish on time.
• Time and money saved on not needing to commute to work, especially in the larger cities.
• We are printing less and using much less paper and consumables.
• There is a massive benefit to the environment with falling air pollution. Citizens in Northern India for example, have a clear view of the Himalayas for the first time in their lives. Closer to home, UK and European cities have seen a significant drop in the average levels of Nitrogen Dioxide.
• CO2 levels in London reduced by 58% recorded by BT tower between March and May this year

Before and after images showing smog levels

Before and after images showing reduced smog

Negatives

• Too many distractions at home, not the right working environment leading to less productivity.
• Working from home without the right ergonomic set up.
• There is no substitute for a face to face meeting and back to back Video Conference meetings are exhausting.
• It is lonely and difficult to be motivated without seeing work colleagues.
• Lack of discipline can make it difficult to be productive.

Of course, once the lockdown is over, there is a balance to be had. For most positives there seems to be a negative, apart from the effect on the environment which is positive in every way. I honestly believe we should take the opportunity of this lockdown to reflect and see how we can find the right balance.

In terms of returning to work in the office, it is clear some people are struggling to work from home and need to get back into the office. Others would welcome some time at home and some time in the office and a few have said that they don’t ever need to be in the office again.

If we could make the office somewhere to spend more time collaborating and team building and less time with our heads down in solitary working mode, that would seem to make sense. The solitary part of our jobs could be done at home. This will mean a shift in the way we work with the emphasis on better time management. It may be that companies need to establish a timetable so that staff know when to expect to be able to meet with colleagues in their teams. This would give some structure and introduce the discipline that has been lacking whilst working from home.

The big question is whether staff require their own desk or office when at work. For those who have had some benefit from working at home and would like to continue, if not all the time, it would be difficult to argue that they need their own desk for it only to be left empty some of the time. Now, therefore is the time to start planning the future way of working whilst our recent experiences are fresh in our minds. It will require significant change in attitude and possibly levels of trust. Working patterns and the layout of the offices will need to change to facilitate what could be the ‘New Normal’

Alternative Worksetting Design 2 For NG Bailey

NG Bailey Collaboration Areas - Designed by the Workspace Consultants

Imagine the benefits to a business if staff can be more productive with a balanced approach and office space can be saved. Recent test examples have suggested that even a limited amount of flexible working can save up to 25% of office space.

We are currently working with several clients in helping them to analyse their future requirement and plan for the future. The results are proving to be very powerful providing a win-win for the business and the environment.

A good starting point will be to get a good understanding of what staff think. This can be done by an e-survey with some targeted questions. We can help run this including an analysis of the results in the form of a report.

Our history of experience in this field along with recent experience gained in working with clients who are considering the way forward now, could help companies determine how their space will look in the future.

Please contact us on info@theworkspaceconsultants.com if you would like to discuss further or indeed if you would like help to implement an e-survey.

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