Is this the end to Office Working as we know it?

Jo Wren

With the high street in turmoil even before the outbreak of the Covid 19 pandemic, will the formal office environment be the next thing to dramatically change and even disappear once we come out of the official lock down?

Flexible Working

Even though this has been driven by a reaction to a world crisis, this emergency way of working could well turn out to be the liberation needed to transform the way we work in a constantly changing world driven by digital transformation. Whilst we would need to find ways to retain the chemistry that an office location tends to provide, ensuring teams get time together and continue to feel like a group of colleagues with good old-fashioned human interaction, there could be changes ahead as we move forward beyond lock down. Reducing the need for travel, the traditional 9-5 and the need for a traditional office environment. .

For many remote working has been the norm and although we are all getting used to the change home working can be done and with a laptop and headset, we can move our office wherever we need.   The expectation and need to travel will be reduced as we can work locally, recruit nationally or even internationally to attract the best talent and work locally at home or in community office hubs without needing a formal office or even the need for one.  Redirecting office overheads to where it is most needed.   

Whether you are a vast organisation of several thousand employees, or a smaller enterprise with just a handful of staff, there are ways and means to make this way of working happenIt is about establishing why you are aiming to do this, and what it can bring to your operations and teams. And it will be important to consider all the criteria to see if this will be the right move for you. The technological advancements are certainly there to help business continuity from more flexible locations and flexible working. 

It’s a transformation of the workplace by bringing the work to the worker, as opposed to the worker to work. Here are some of the potential benefits: 

Cost Reduction  

There are reports of some businesses who have pioneered the alternative workplace options (moving to a combination of non-traditional shifts, settings and locations) having seen substantial cost reductions – sometimes up to 30%  just by eliminating offices that are no longer needed on going, consolidating multi-location, and reducing the overhead costs related to these. 

This could be done through reducing permanent office space and using a series of office “shifts” for people to meet/hot desk as they need to be in that office environment. Or having smaller “satellite” locations where you need them driven by the groups of people who need to gather in certain places as and when. Working digitally from home is something that many do on occasion, this has become more the norm of late – and has worked well for many to consider on going on a more permanent basis.  As well as considering flexible working spaces for community working.   

It is not only business that benefits – but also employees, as there are savings to be made from commuting – reducing the need for travel costs, company cars and wider overheads.  There are also certain government or tax incentives available through adaptable working locations including home offices. Typically, there is a reduction in sick days taken too. 

Improved Productivity 

Often, it has been observed that staff move away from typical office routines established in a more traditional permanent office environment, and focus more on customers, or tasks. Plus attracting and keeping talented and highly motivated employees can often be the edge in having alternative working options. Which can entail a more diverse workforceopening the talent pool nationally and even internationally and one that enables flexible working outside of the 9-5 to provide to enhance customer experience and drive productivity to support activity as it is needed.   

Work Life balance 

The traditional 9-5 Monday to Friday has truly been thrown out of the window.  If nothing more can be evident through this lockdown is that working flexibly is possible and can be done without impacting on productivity.  The opportunity to open a new chapter in working practice is very much ready to be written.  From flexible hours to working 4 days a week, to concentrated hours are all up for consideration and debate.   Work life balance is something that will see change, as many will be able to spend less time travelling or commuting – which in turn can help to reduce stress And find a working pattern to suit their employer as well as their home life. It might enable parents to see their children or get to their exercise routine in a more accessible and convenient way.  Plus, the feeling of working for a progressive organisation who can be flexible and listen to staff. 

The Environment 

With less car or train journeys to and from offices, and flights to various locations on a regular basis – this can only help the planet as most countries seek ways to help reduce carbon levels. 

Globally an estimated 8.4 million days of personal time will be saved from reduced commuting times thanks to the rise of flexible workplaces, according to Cool Cosmos. Meanwhile, over 2.5 million metric tonnes of CO2 will be saved globally as a result of the trend, according to Carbon Independent. That’s roughly equivalent to emissions of 1,280 flights between London and New York. 

But Don’t Forget Culture…. 

There are some watch outs too  after all, this is a big. Change means taking people on a journey and ensuring they feel properly communicated, consulted and engaged at all stages.  

Culturally there are challenges with a lack of face to face contact with colleagues which can impact cohesiveness. Team working needs working upon to ensure there is no breakdown in communications, or impact on coordination of work projects and meetings needed to keep business continuity and growth. Efficiency and effectiveness levels need review to ensure things are on track, aligning working times when needed to get objectives achieved. 

Managing a team remotely also takes a slightly different set of skills – from setting and managing objectives, to leading meetings, undertaking training and performance management. Its also good to have an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) to help with such a change in working arrangements. Some face to face time is needed – either one to one or in groups – and this needs to be planned in at the right venue. 

If you work from home – it can be misleading for family as to when you are available. And often there becomes a blurring or no clear dividing line between work/home life. You also need to be set up appropriately to work safely and comfortably. 

The recent pandemic has certainly bought the idea of more flexible working options back into sharp focusand for many it was not through logistically or technically possible. For many it has highlighted that it is possible, it is effective and has many more positives than drawbacks.  For us at OJO we are firmly focused ourselves on how we will work in the future and bringing forward many of our ambitions for a more flexible working environment that enhances productivity and drives creativity across our team.   

 

 

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