With the end of the pandemic slowly coming into view, what will it mean for the future of the workplace?
As organizations gradually emerge from crisis mode and look to the future, many are realizing that events this year have rapidly accelerated trends that had been slowly developing over the preceding decades. Perhaps the most significant of these has been the mass transition to home working. This forced experiment has largely been seen as a success, with recent studies indicating that most people now want to come in the office 2-3 days a week and work from home the rest of the time.
It’s likely that organizations wanting to keep their employees engaged will now need to provide more choice over where people work and when, to suit their work activities and other commitments. This will impact the size of workspaces and how they are arranged.
Many businesses are considering a ‘hybrid’ model involving different spaces and more remote working. As well as enabling more flexibility, this could free up funds for new technology or supporting staff development and wellbeing. But would this approach work for you? And if so, how do you get there?
At a recent TLOMA Facilities SIG webinar, MovePlan’s Suki Reilly and Michelle Brown shared their thoughts on how businesses can plan and implement new ways of working. The process can be broken down into three key stages.
1. Assessment And Planning
The first stage should be based on a thorough workplace assessment, to help you understand where you’ve been, where you are and where you’re going.
As well as the central pillars of space and technology, the third crucial element that businesses need to consider is their people. Tools such as staff surveys, visioning sessions and focus groups can help organizations get an idea of how their employees are thinking. These will help you understand the appetite for change and bring people on board with your emerging plans.
For a more complete picture, firms should also gather hard data. Information from badge swipes and HR reports can provide insights into who is in the office and when, for example. In addition, you could consider industry benchmarking standards, departmental key performance indicators (KPIs), or carry out a SWOC (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges) analysis.
Another useful tool is a utilization study to drill down into exactly how workspaces are used. This examines not only whether someone is using a space, but how it is being used. If someone is sitting at a desk, are they doing heads-down work or speaking on the phone? If they are in a 20-person meeting room, is it full or are there just two people in a big space?
Drawing together information from these and other sources will help businesses develop a clear idea of what they need to do to enable their people to perform at their best.
2. Bringing About Change
Once you’re clear about your goals, the next step is taking the concrete actions needed to reach them. A live poll of our webinar attendees revealed a wide breadth of opinions on the biggest hurdles to realizing their workplace strategies, including collaboration, culture and leadership. How can businesses overcome challenges like these to implement successful change?
An effective approach will involve thinking about what needs to change at an organizational, departmental and individual level, and what the impact will be. So, if your aim is to create a more flexible and agile workforce, you may need to invest in technology to support that, such as online collaboration tools and cloud-based file-sharing software.
You should also actively engage with employees, offering them training in the new ways of working and explaining the reasons behind these. Change needs to make sense for your staff as well as the business – otherwise it won’t stick.
Techniques for ensuring good communication include newsletters, huddles, and discussions. And businesses could engage staff more deeply with their plans through activities such as virtual scavenger hunts based on a new workspace, or challenges centered around organizational goals. For one client, MovePlan recently utilized a Minecraft game experience to bring the new building to life.
Your planned changes may be large or small. But given the upheavals Covid-19 has caused, people are bound to feel uncertain. So, it’s important to involve everybody in the process, and be clear about what is and is not changing.
3. Sustaining And Reinforcing The New Way Of Working
Without clear guidance, people have a natural tendency to revert back to what they’re comfortable with. So, once you’ve created the working environment you want, you should continue to support it.
Keep your communications with staff consistent, make sure people have the tools they need, and provide ongoing training. With new technology, it can often help to identify ‘super-users’ who can help their peers make the most of new applications. Find out if there are any under-performing groups and focus on engaging with them. Equally, be sure to recognize and reward those who adapt well to new norms.
One way of looking at how the pandemic has brought about change is through the ‘unfreeze, change, refreeze’ model described by the psychologist Kurt Lewin. Amid the disruption, Covid-19 has helped free us from old ways of doing things and brought exciting opportunities. But once we’ve seized these, at some point we need to return to stability. This third stage is a time to establish new ways of working, while allowing room for growth.
As you navigate this process, it’s important to define success and how you’ll measure it. You could look at how many people attend your events, how satisfied your customers are, or how many people recommend your business to others, for example. However well you’re doing, you should review and adapt your approach on an ongoing basis. To ensure you’re taking your employees’ feedback into account, you could use more surveys, as well as guided discussions, virtual breakout rooms in Zoom meetings, or an internal or company microsite.
As our workplace culture evolves, finding the right balance between different approaches is a delicate process, and there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution. But whatever strategy you adopt, it will require initiative and deliberate thought. So don’t wait around – it’s time to get started.