Has the world of work really changed?

Apr 29, 2020

The world of work has been turned on its head. The challenges the world is facing currently has brought about a paradigm shift in how businesses and people work. It is causing organisations to totally rethink how they use space and the role of the ‘workplace’ in both a strategic and operational perspective.

But has what people want from their workplace really changed?

Hasn’t it always be important that one of the biggest overheads for a business works far harder than just existing as a place to sit at a desk? Hasn’t it always been an opportunity to say more about your business, how it values staff and the environment in which it welcomes new clients, new talent and the wider community?

Of course, in the age of COVID-19 organisations have been forced to abandon traditional ways of working in favour of adopting remote working practices where they can. But has this really been a shift in the way we work or has it simply brought in to focus the challenges of an outdated approach to working life?

Adapting to the reality of operating in the context of a pandemic has been more challenging for some business than it has for others who had already shifted to a more agile and flexible way of working.

Technology and connectivity: the glue holding organisations together

The skyrocketing valuation of video conferencing platforms in recent weeks is testament to the role that technology plays in keeping businesses running, not that you needed much proof reading this in between scheduled video conference meetings and organising virtual post-work drinks with friends and family through similar technologies.

Companies have never been more dependent on technology as a key driver for growth as businesses realise that more and more ‘work’ can be done outside of the office, across borders, time zones, languages and cultures. Any technological shortcomings of your business are becoming more important to address than ever before to guarantee your workforce are connected, accessible, productive and engaged, and we don’t anticipate this changing in the post-pandemic world of work.

Wellbeing and the humanity of working life

Guest appearances in video conferencing courtesy of dogs, cats, children and partners have become a source of hilarity for many as the human aspect of working life is brought in to focus more than ever before in the work-from-home era. Organisations, leaders and managers can no longer ignore what has previously been hidden from view and kept outside of the office as many people commandeer kitchen tables and living rooms to conduct their day-to-day work tasks.

On the surface, working from home sounds great, right? Despite having been relieved of the daily commute and the comforts of home, for many, working from home presents a number of challenges for a person’s physical and mental wellbeing. Isolation and loneliness and a lack of social contact can be difficult to deal with as well as the physical challenges presented by being confined to your house with limited opportunities to get out for exercise. Online fitness and yoga live-streams are helping people keep well, both mentally and physically and provide a some positivity and social interaction in uncertain and challenging circumstances.

When will we return to the office? And what will it look like?

There is much speculation as to when we will return to post-COVID-19 normality, with many suggesting that the world of work has been changed irreversibly. Whilst that may seem a daunting prospect for some, we believe that there is real opportunity for organisations to unlock the potential of their people and drive tangible business growth by revaluating their workspace.

For our industry, we believe this will manifest itself in the form of a new wave of exciting design schemes that are more closely aligned with strategies to attract and retain the best talent, than they are with maximising the capacity of a floor plan. Technology will play a significant part in this, facilitating a more agile approach to work with connectivity enabling seamless remote working and state-of-the-art IT infrastructure being integral to business continuity. The cost of wasted time due to IT challenges is well documented and is an issue made only more acute in the current climate.

We can only speculate as to what impact any potential ‘social distancing’ regulations will have on how the future workplace looks, but we anticipate seeing fewer banks of desks in modern working environments and more high quality breakout spaces and well-appointed meeting facilities.

Ultimately, we predict the functional benefits of office space being reconsidered in favour of an approach that prioritises using the workplace as a way of attracting and retaining the best talent, supporting staff wellbeing and engagement and becoming more closely aligned with communicating a company’s brand values than maximising office headcount.

We are keen to speak with organisations who are revaluating the strategic use of their facilities/office space/property portfolio and find out what steps they are taking to address the changing priorities of their organisation and their staff. Get in touch with us here.

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