The Future Office: A Crystal Ball or Alarm Bell?

The Future Office: A Crystal Ball or Alarm Bell?

Everyone is a “futurologist.” Soon, when we can go back to the office completely because a vaccine has been found, the 6-foot society will be stripped of all coronavirus rules and stickers. The world will look different, and what does that mean the office will look like?

Architects sketch vistas of work environments that have been completely redesigned. Real estate agents come up with images of workplaces in large circles of 6 feet and calculations of the number of more feet needed, ready for the next pandemic. And furniture suppliers come up with ingenious solutions for home workers. In this period, when all the impossible suddenly seems possible, utopian ideas sound realistic.

When the world changes so fast, it is tempting to think big steps into the future. And what prevails: the quality of the workplace or the idea of ​​saving money?

In recent weeks, Solved has coronavirus-proofed many work environments and so inspecting abandoned offices. Except for a few, everyone worked at home. The finance department, which has always been said to be near their files, works at home – as do the lawyers. A tour with another customer shows that even the employees of the abandoned control room with the large screens are also working at home. Working from home is possible for many more departments and organizations than previously thought. The estimate of how much people will work from home will vary widely, from 49% (Intermediair study, 11 May 2020) to 25% (Knowledge Institute for Mobility – 24 Apr 2020). Both percentages are correct but will apply to different organizations.

So what percentage belongs to your organization? Will you have work-from-home days spread out during the week, or will the first hours of each day be spent at home and everyone drives to the office after the traffic jam so that the office is still full in the afternoon? And why do people even go to the office? 

These are difficult questions that still need to be considered. You may be asked to lead certain aspects of the transition back to the office, which could include quick actions and significant modifications. Several of our customers have made decisions quickly. Some will say that working from home 2 days a week will become the norm, even though everyone now has a fixed workplace at the office. We are all for quick decision-making, but because many fundamental and strategic questions are still unanswered, we are sounding the alarm. Experience shows that you can have a nice office, but if it does not suit the work, corporate culture, and your vision, it still misses its target.

Solved has created a roadmap to gain quick and well-founded insight into how much and when people will work at home and in the office. The roadmap is the same for every company, but the outcome differs appropriately for each company.

ITINERARY:

1.Map your employees’ activities.

Focus: Research often shows that people do focused work more than 50% of the time. Also referred to as deep work, or process work. Step 1 provides insight into how much time is spent in deep work (focused) by the employees in your organization. And step 2 is to distinguish which spot the employee can best perform his work. 

Research shows that 57% of people are more productive at home. In contrast to the open plan office environment, working at home is efficient and focused. At least, for those without children with home education and who inhabit a spacious home…

However, it’s too soon to conclude that businesses will need to adjust to work-from-home policies, as working from home is not possible or loved for everyone. At a law firm, one lawyer works well digitally, while the other drags shopping bags full of files through the house. Many businesses may need to adopt personalized working methods for their employees. And as an employer, you should offer quiet workspaces to staff who do come to the office regularly.

Collaboration: The need for collaboration and consultation has increased in recent weeks. In organizations with a collaborative culture, their days are full of video calls. 

Fortunately, the variation of virtual and physical meetings has now been normalized and helps make hybrid work options more possible. For example, a virtual team meeting could occur at home at the beginning of the day, followed by collaborative in-person sessions at the office later in the day. Again, step 1 is gaining insight into the time spent on collaboration, and step 2 is the search for a way to fulfill the needs that surface.

Meeting: In addition to missing the hairdresser and social happy hours, employees are also missing their colleagues;  60% of Intermediair respondents consider this a viable reason to return to the office. Having a chat over coffee, venting frustrations, sharing concerns, complimenting a colleague, or simply laughing together has proven indispensable and irreplaceable. 

Staff interactions and relationships are much needed to prevent tunnel vision and burnouts. And what about new employees who have never been to the office before, how will they become acquainted with company culture, habits and brand value? This is an important part of every staff member’s work experience and company longevity.

2. Map your company’s culture

One of our customers conducted extensive research into the activities of their organization and was able to conclude that working from home was possible and desired by their employees; therefore, reducing the number of workspaces seemed logical. What was forgotten, however, was the company’s hierarchical culture. Going to the office also meant being noticed by executives. So to turn work at home into a success, leadership needs to make changes. For example, a manager needs to set the example by working from home frequently and by using the entire range of communication tools so that proper support is created among the managers and organizational leaders.

3. What is the vision?

The most important part of this process is to have a clear idea of ​​why you are doing all this. What purpose can housing contribute? Any purpose is legitimate, as long as it is genuine. Is cost reduction the driver? Fair enough. Or should the office strengthen the bonding of employees with the company? Or is your goal “simply to be the best workplace in the world” to attract the best people?

Recently, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey reported that “Twitter employees are allowed to work from home for as long as they want”. The message was eagerly adopted and took on a life of its own. If Twitter can do that, then everyone can do it in whole or in part. However, the reason why Twitter will probably succeed, and other companies won’t, is the vision behind their decision. The CEO had previously stated that he was dissatisfied that almost all employees live in San Francisco, and he wanted a wider geographic spread of talent. 

This also helps to disconnect the office from your place of residence; if you no longer have to come to the office, you can live anywhere, and the geographic spread will increase, a good example of linking your vision to housing.

In short, the future of the office will change. Working from home will never disappear. Evidence that people really do work at home is no longer necessary and most collaboration can be done remotely. Everyone can use digital tools. 

However, widespread research doesn’t show how big the impact will be on your individual company. Insight into the activities, the corporate culture and your vision are necessary to make the right choices. Solved is developing a tool for this that we will share with you shortly. We look forward to seeing the future with you!

For more information or questions please contact Erik Tijsma 020-6708090 tijsma@solved.nl