When the Covid-19 crisis began there was plenty of commentary about the long-term effect it might have on how we work. Businesses had to adjust rapidly to remote working and those who already had some capacity to accommodate this was able to scale up their response much quicker than those who were starting from scratch.
It brought home the need for businesses to plan for future sudden changes, whether they’re brought about through another wide-scale health emergency or something else. Business resilience is being talked about with greater urgency than ever.
While few companies can realistically facilitate remote working for the entire workforce indefinitely, most will be able to continue allowing some employees to work from home at least some of the time. When it comes to the management of space in the office, it may be vital.
If there is to be a ‘new normal,’ then it will be blended working where some employees work from the office and others continue to work from home to keep everyone in the office safe.
Blended work practices
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, 95% of ‘white-collar’ workers worked in an office, with only 5% working from home. Covid-19 tipped those statistics on their head, and as we return to the workplace each company will need to develop its own approach to blended working. What the percentages look like will vary from company to company.
How this is done will depend on a number of factors…
Some businesses have an office culture that has long been encouraging of remote and flexible working strategies. These may be able to manage with the barest minimum of on-site staff. Companies who have a more traditional, office-based culture may want to take a maximalist approach, that asks how many people they can realistically have in the office at any one time. This idea would include concepts such as managing staff downtime.
A shift toward remote working has budgetary advantages for a company with the need to maintain expensive high-profile offices suddenly looking less essential.
Employees’ personal requests
Some employees will be keen to return to the office, others less so. Some may have found remote working helpful in developing a better work/life balance. Others may have ongoing health concerns that make them hesitant in returning to the office. People under 40 are at much lower risk of complications from contracting Covid-19 than those in older age groups. Younger employees might be encouraged to return to the office, particularly if they’re at a stage in their career where they require greater supervision. As they get older and take on family responsibilities, they might then be able to shift into remote working.
Managing physical distancing
How physical distancing can be managed will determine who can and who cannot return to the office. Some may take a departmental approach. Each department will always have one or two members of staff present, with others working remotely. This can either be the same employees or with each employee alternating between home and office.
With the amount of available office space radically reduced and remote working embedded into the company culture, employees may only need to come into the office for a range of very specific reasons such as face to face client meetings, when they need face-to-face supervision or when they are dealing with sensitive information. A space booking system may ensure that the numbers using office space are strictly limited.
There will be no generic ‘new-normal’ across the range and diversity of workplaces. Instead, each company will need to develop its own strategies over the coming months and years. Even if a vaccine makes the pre-pandemic way of working possible, immediately shifting back to the old normal may not be the best way to proceed. Resilient companies will be those with the maximum flexibility, with an adaptable workforce who respond quickly to any imposed change.
For more advice about shaping your offices for the future, speak to the expert team at Flow today.