2020 has been a year during which doom-mongers have shouted about the Covid-driven demise of the office. Lockdowns have accelerated what was already a growing trend towards homeworking. According to some, the likes of Zoom, Slack and Teams have kicked the conference room into touch, and the absence of a commute has awakened people to a wealth of reclaimed personal time that they will not willingly give up.
But our experience – based on discussions with clients and looking at what’s occuring in the wider working world – is somewhat different.
While homeworking will undoubtedly play some part in people’s lives from here on, for many it’s not quite the promised land of productivity, personal freedom and fulfillment that it’s been cracked up to be. The novelty is wearing off and the stresses and distractions of trying to work in a place that is usually your escape from work are taking their toll.
As a result, more and more people are saying they can’t wait to return to the office!
Savvy businesses know that this can not and should not mean a return to the ‘old normal’ of office use and occupancy. First, it’s currently not safe to do this. And second, a step backwards misses the opportunity to put in place changes to office layouts and usage that actually make things better than they were before.
For example, one of our larger clients is shaking up the use of their office estate to allow a far more flexible approach to its use. Where business functions were previously siloed in certain locations (let’s say HR in Swindon, accounts in Bristol, sales and marketing in Reading) they are planning to allow staff to work from their nearest office, rather than the one previously associated with their job role.
This has the potential of giving staff relief from the headache of permanent homeworking, plus a chance to connect and collaborate with colleagues in ways not possible on screen. It will benefit individual and collective morale, nurture the organisation’s culture, and allow a cross-fertilisation of ideas as people from different departments meet and interact.
So as we head towards 2021 with the hope of a post-Covid world on the horizon, ask yourself whether your business and its employess could benefit from a rethink of the use of your office estate, or even from a shake up of the office space within a single location.