Return to the Office Post Covid-19

Reflections on questions, discussions, and insights from our customers.

How will the habits, limitations, and opportunities we as employees and companies have experienced during the pandemic shape how we work and use our offices?

Introduction

RETURN TO THE OFFICE

 We have seen unprecedented changes in the way we work during the Corona pandemic; many works from home juggling work, family, leisure time, and digital technology have become a premise for collaboration.

We all look forward to meeting our colleagues at the office again. It has been a topic in numerous interactions with our customers, here we share some of the insights.

Do you prefer video? Enjoy the webinar recording:

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THE CHANGES

How has Covid-19 changed the way we work?

Has COVID-19 changed the way we work or has it accelerated what was already happening? There were already some trends, maybe some of these trends just got a huge boost? The first thing that happened was that we all got to work from home. The office emptied and we learnt to use our home offices, for better and for worse. And that is what happened for almost everyone who had opportunity to do some of their work from a computer.

Collaboration at stake

It suddenly became really important to have cloud based solutions, that enabled companies to distributed their workforce. Some needed cloud file sharing, Others had to adapt and invest in collaboration tools like Teams and Zoom. We've seen an unprecedented increase in investments in, and adoption of these tools. What would likely have taken years happened over months.

Just because we had to, in order to run our businesses. Cloud spending increased with 37% during the first quarter of 2020 . Okay. That was a big change. Many companies struggled with that. And some saw all sorts of benefits of remote working. Some didn't have to spend time commuting, resulting in consequently less traveling, less pollution in the cities. You had more flexibility, right?
 

The upsides of working from home

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Suddenly it was possible to fit in private activities during normal work hours, work maybe in the evenings, more in the mornings and situate yourself in places you want to be in. There are great examples of employers actively promoting employees to plan their own time, which for some can mean that they work in the morning and evening, with a ski-break in the ski in the afternoon. Another example of a company embracing the covid-19 learnings is Messagebird, they introduced their “Work Anywhere” policy, whereby employees can choose where they set up their workspace — literally anywhere they want, as long as it’s in the same time zone as their team.
 

But also challenges

Many families can relate to the situation when childcare closed down. Suddenly you had to be a teacher and a responsible employee at the same time. There are also some reports of longer work hours. The lines between work and leisure time got blurred and the way we interacted socially was challenged. We suddenly sat there just apart, as human beings longing for interaction.
 

What do the numbers say? 

74%

Results of various surveys reporting that it is people that we miss most about not being in the office. In one of them we read 74% say it’s the people. Also, many of the he reasons people mention for going to the office involve people; Having meetings, socializing face to face, Interaction, feeling part of the community, focus work, access to technology, meet clients.


Increased focus on health and safety.

Some of the things we hear from the companies we work with and what we see out there are measures and considerations to increase health and safety in the office environment.
You will probably recognize some of these considerations:

 

  • A need for getting a documentation, that people are healthy when coming to the office.
  • Knowing and reducing capacity of conference rooms
  • Potentially wearing face masks.
  • increased circulation of air, because that can reduce virus risk.
  • Air sensors that can indicate of the risk of virus spreading, by measuring; humidity, CO2 etc.
  • Increased focus on how can we make the office more safe despite the pandemic.
Returning after Covid-19

HOW WILL OUR OFFICES LOOK LIKE?

We've set our horizon to a post-Covid-19 period and engaged with our customers and researched reports and surveys. We can conclude that many are thinking that it's not going to be like it was before. Much will turn back to normal, but what is it that will change and what are the drivers of this? Why will things not just go back to how they were before?

Interesting fact to mention is that people got used to working remote and we soon realised we can be just as, and maybe even more, efficient than before. We experienced the benefits,  and are now able to see the positive effect it can have on our professional and personal life. 

A survey from Price, Waterhouse, Coopers (PWC). Executed amongst 850 US workers and 130 executives managing companies, shows significant interest in a hybrid solution between working in the office and remote work. We shouldn't underestimate the power of the workforce putting up such requirements with the knowledge worker we see today. This needs to be addressed, one way or another.

Many companies who have been open for remote work have seen it didn´t compromise efficiency, and are seeing opportunities for a workforce no longer bound to a geographical location. This results in an increased competitiveness when wanting to attract skilled employees

A survey from JLL amongst 2000 respondents in November 2020, showed 50% of employees wanting some sort of hybrid model where they have the flexibility of both working from home and in the office. 26% prefer only being remote or somewhere else like outside the office and 24% in the office only. 

How did the employers respond on the JLL Survey?

JLL-1

With that premise, with those preferences, focus on collaboration and flexibility is paramount. If employees are not in the office all days a week. Why do we go there and how can you create that flexibility of managing a workforce that is not there every day?

 

A hybrid model catering both remote and in-office work requires considerations:

  • Should we have a hoteling solution where you come in and you have certain spaces where you book, desks, book rooms.
  • Do we want to share offices? If people are in 50% of the time, would it be possible to share an office with someone else?
  • How can we personalize spaces for teams doing certain specific types of work, like projects.
  • How can we accommodate the need of making the office more personal? 
  • Can we benefit from a Café-style seating? 
  • What about open air conference areas?
  • What impact does that have on the interior and architecture of (new) Offices?
 

Will Activity-based working style become fashionable again?

Many mention the activity-based working style, which is not new, but it may regain traction. To find out if it will one would need to ask employees what the purpose of an office should be, why they would want  to go there? 
 
Price, Waterhouse, Coopers asked employees what their first and foremost need is, and not surprisingly, collaboration was ranked 1st:
  1. Collaborating
  2. Accessing equipment or documents securely
  3. Meeting with clients or colleagues
  4. Training & career development
Interesting enough, if you ask the employers, they believe it's mostly about increasing productivity:
  1. Increasing employee productivity
  2. Providing a space to meet clients
  3. Enabling employees to collaborate effectively
  4. Enabling our company culture

But even though that this data shows some different priority and different rankings, there are similarities. It's collaboration, socializing, and it's about meeting clients.

Some things are just required to have a physical presence. Along comes the discussion about, centralizing and decentralizing office space. If we have a flexible workforce and we know we can work remote, why not establish smaller satellite offices to have our workforce avoid commuting? Having that closer to their homes while still getting some place to collaborate and meet.

But does that really fit that need and purpose that we looked at just before? If you are wanting to go there to socialize and meet your colleagues, if you want to go there to learn, if you want to go there to meet clients, is it enough to go to a smaller office where only some of your colleagues are and maybe your clients are not close to. Or is it better to have that central office still where everyone meets if they want to meet?

In the Price, Waterhouse Cooper survey there are both companies thinking about consolidating space while also de-centralizing. And the consolidation topic, especially, is something that we hear across the board and seeing many articles about companies saying we want to lower the amount of real estate. If people are not in the office all the time we don't need as much space. So we're thinking about cutting it down and then having people to share desks. Back to the need for hoteling. Back to the need for sharing spaces, for having flexibility.

Rationally that makes so much sense, but what also comes to my mind is being thoughtful about its effect on collaboration efficiency, but mostly overall employee well-being. What if cutting down on real estate impacts that negatively?

Interesting considerations, which we will be following with interest and write about on our blog. If you are interesting in staying in know, sign-up for the AskCody Blog

We also recommend you read the JLL and PWC articles:

 

From our customers

REFLECTIONS ON QUESTIONS, DISCUSSIONS AND INSIGHTS

In a recent webinar with some of our customers we opened up the mic for their reflections on how things will look going forward. And here Luke from law-firm Shook shared his view, which we very much would like to share with you;

We've been an AskCody customer and rolled out AskCody during the pandemic. So we're in a really good spot because everyone is using the tool from home, getting familiar with it.
But one thing I think will happen. And this is from our law firm perspective. We have 15 different offices. A lot of the support where normally we'd fly someone to a place to do a thing will now be done remotely. And I think space is going to get utilized in different ways.

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I've been reading so many articles about the office will never return to normal. I think it is going to return to normal. It's just more things happening in less space. And I also think those people that want the flexibility to work from home will be given that flexibility. In our law firm that really wasn't really an option for us.
We had so many things happening in person, but there are certain roles that might make more sense to be remote. And I think that the last point I'd make how this would affect our office space. Specific to AskCody.

One thing we'll be taking a closer look at is what is the space being used for. So instead of having a floor of 20 conference rooms and it's just meetings, and I think it will help us prioritize how that space is used and make better decisions going forward.

That resonates very well and we think Luke is onto something there. We see customers considering optimizing the use of space, while still being able to execute the same variety of things as before, but more efficient and with an increased focus on Health and Safety.

Facilitate these outcomes

USING ASKCODY´S PLATFORM

 We are now seeing more and more companies in preparation mode for the re-opening of the physical facilities. Here is our contribution to get most out of your AskCody Solution

hot design office hoteling - askcody

We have prepared you a list with some practical tips on how you can use your AskCody solution to prepare for the “Post COVID-19” workplace and get into the mindset of securing your office space and make all your employees and visitors feel safe in your environment.

Check-out the list

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See how AskCody can save you a ton on meeting management.

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