In the last 18-months, UK industry has achieved what should have taken many more years to do – it has broken the link between work and the workplace. New ways of working have definitely arrived!
The debate rages on about what role traditional offices should have for the workforce of the future and how employers need to embrace a more flexible and agile workforce. But what does it actually mean for businesses? What are the new ways of working?
Changing where people work
After a prolonged period of adjusting to working at home, the prospect of returning to a daily commute, fixed hours and being surrounded by colleagues in the office isn’t something many are looking forward to. Even the most unlikely of employers have adapted, finding creative and innovative ways to ensure work activity can continue regardless of location.
Returning to the Office in New Ways
Despite this, many businesses are keen to see people return to the office. There are many good reasons why – increased productivity, better collaboration, more meaningful interactions are just a few of the positive results achieved by people working side by side in a single environment. The likely outcome for most, however, is going to be a hybrid model that sees a combination of office-based hours alongside more flexible working.
Changing how people work
The post-pandemic landscape will no doubt look different, with habits formed and knowledge gained to make the office a safer and more hygienic place. For now, issues such as how desks are laid out to ensure social distancing, how kitchen and canteen facilities are utilised and whether one-way systems are needed to avoid unnecessary crowding are front of mind.
Longer term, it’s possible that office space could be purposefully designed with these factors in mind to help mitigate future outbreaks of viruses and other illnesses that can be better managed through enhanced containment measures. As a minimum, it’s likely that there’ll be greater investment in things like air conditioning systems, integrated body temperature scanners and innovative technologies to support both deep cleaning and regular cleanings such as anti-bacterial surfaces and self-cleaning door handles.
Redefining the Office Concept
Workplace change is inevitable; it’s happening already. For businesses with a significant office building profile, flexibility will be key to ensure buildings aren’t being used in a minimal capacity. Redefining the space available to cater for a more dynamic workforce is an attractive option, utilising breakout areas, quiet zones and more meeting rooms to give the office space purpose over and above day-to-day desk working. It is also vitally important to review your facilities management.
With increased health and safety measures in place for many employees, how visitors are greeted and treated is an important consideration. The use of technology as a virtual receptionist is a clever way to mitigate unnecessary interactions whilst still creating a seamless yet simple experience for any visiting individuals. Visitor zones could become more commonplace, limiting the exposure between a visitor and the wider workforce by restricting movement and touchpoints.
Create Workplaces that Work for Your Workers
What’s clear is that there is no single solution that will be rolled out by UK industry. As business begin their return to a longer-term working solution, the important thing will be to work together with their employees to create an environment that people want to work in, rather than are told to work in.
In a typical year (of which 2020 was definitely not!), the average person spends around 1,800 hours at work. Spending that much time anywhere means it needs to be conducive to happiness, productivity and enjoyment. When it’s associated with work, it becomes even more critical.