What Role does the Office Play in the Future of WorkMichael Curran
Do businesses still need expansive campuses in a post-pandemic world? Google has opted to extend remote work, until at least the summer of 2021. Other companies have shifted to a permanently remote office policy, completely shuttering their corporate offices. With approved vaccines now being administered globally, now is the time to start evaluating what work will look like in a post-pandemic world. Will your business be fully remote, return to a 100% office environment, or will you choose a hybrid of the two?
Let’s take an in-depth look at these questions and how to begin answering them.
1. For What Purposes Is It Important For Employees To Be In The Office?
The trend of remote work had been on the rise for years, but the pandemic accelerated it dramatically across all sectors. Virtual classrooms popped up in every grade level, the finance industry left Wall Street to work from their home offices, and telehealth boomed as surely as remote work in tech.
Global social distancing quickly gave rise to the popularity of videoconferencing and remote team collaborations. But now, that trend may reverse course (at least somewhat). Will some offices return to a more traditional office environment? Or will they continue to experiment?
The answer may lie in the industry your business is in, the culture of the company itself, or how well the staff has fared these last several months.
As McCabe explains, “Things will continue to be unsettled… The pandemic sparked an en masse shift to work from home. As time has gone on, and policies and regulations have changed, companies are testing different wants to reconfigure the workplace for a combination that could comprise fully remote workers, fully in-office workers, and workers that alternate between working remotely and in the office in a fairly ad hoc way.”
As you look ahead into 2021, evaluate which roles truly need to be fully in-office, which can be fully remote, and which can be a hybrid. In remote roles, consider which can be worked from different states or even spread across the world. Should any (or all) employees work in the same time zone, no matter where they live? For instance, if your headquarters is in New York should you expect a San Francisco hire to maintain Eastern Standard Time with the rest of their colleagues? Remember that even your pre-Covid staff may have moved during this turbulent time. You’ll want to maintain the same guidelines for them that you do for any new recruits.
It’s a good idea to avoid recreating what you were doing before the onset of the pandemic. This is an opportunity to see what might work best for your employees and your business going forward.
2. How Can Office Space Be Designed To Accommodate A Hybrid Workforce?
Like all interiors, office design should support the intended activity. Of course, the set-up of any office must be conducive to productivity—but this idea takes on an entirely different shape when accommodating a hybrid workforce.
McCabe advises business leaders to consider which tools will help you “collaborate in a more integrated, less cumbersome way. Examine how you need to digitize your business processes so that employees can do their job anytime, anywhere.”
Laptops are a must if you want to give your staff the flexibility to work at home as well as the office, of course. The ability to answer work phones securely from personal devices is another essential component of a hybrid workforce.
For the office itself, consider flexible workstations to accommodate hybrid workers when they need to be on the premises.
3. What Do Employees And Managers Need To Work Collaboratively And Productively?
Investing in collaborative tech is the key for a remote or hybrid workforce. It helps to keep employees connected to each other and to customers. To maintain this level of engagement, access to certain tools is crucial:
Face-to-face time is always vital, whether it is achieved in person or remotely via video.
Not all communications have to be in person or synchronous. Text-based chat can help your employees avoid videoconferencing fatigue while still staying connected.
Mitel offers a suite of collaboration software to help enable the sharing of info via voice, video, and instant messaging. Choose from a variety of options including MiTeam Meetings, MiCollab, and more.
A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is an encrypted connection to the Internet that keeps data secure and uncompromised. A VPN allows a remote workforce to send and receive data as securely as if they were on site.
4. How Can We Secure Employee Well-Being And Engagement?
Ensuring employee welfare goes beyond just offering the right technology, of course—and it’s important to acknowledge not every employee feels the same about remote work. “Early on, WFH worked very well—a lot of people were ready for a break from the office. But the novelty is wearing off for many,” says McCabe. “Companies will need to get creative and try to find out how they can take out some of the stress.”
Flexibility is the key for making sure employees’ needs are being met. Instead of forcing everyone into a single way of working, many businesses are looking at ways to promote a hybrid workforce, with workers able to choose the work environment that suits them best. This type of flexibility will be crucial for businesses to attract and retain top talent in the future.
As you equip your offices and your workforce with the technology to communicate and collaborate, make sure your choices are moving toward a more flexible workforce, rather than enforcing a one-size-fits-all approach.
Begin Preparing Now For Life Post-Pandemic
Just like we weren’t quite sure what life in a pandemic would look like, we can’t be entirely certain of how the world will look on the other side. But we can evaluate what has worked so far and what we’ve learned over the past year, and use that information to guide the next phase.