Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey recently emailed all employees and told them they’d be allowed to work from home permanently, even after the coronavirus pandemic lockdown passes. Barclays boss Jes Staley has said:
‘big offices might be a thing of the past’
As business leaders prepare for a ‘return to the office’, what exactly are they expecting to find there?
In this article, we look at how the rapid shift to remote working will influence the use of office workspaces in the future and how technology can help to overcome the issues associated with a return to the office.
The Office We Once Knew
In our workplaces before lockdown, most people had a ‘fixed’ desk – somewhere they’d sit and work every day with a computer screen, keyboard, desk phone, pens and maybe a picture of loved ones.
Very occasionally, employees may have worked from home, but they were in the office most days or attending in-person meetings at other locations.
Meeting spaces in office buildings consisted of conference rooms and smaller meeting rooms, often with the software tools to handle room booking schedules.
The Shift To Remote Working
The response to the Covid-19 pandemic changed all this. Companies who’d been considering the introduction of flexible ‘work-from-home’ policies together with those for whom it wasn’t even on the radar, suddenly found themselves instructing employees to work from home with whatever tools and equipment could be hurriedly put in place.
Many experienced working from home for the first time in their lives. And for business-leaders used to staff being productive in the office, the prospect of managing a distributed workforce surfaced many new challenges that hadn’t been faced before.
The At-Home Office – What Have We Learned?
If you’d gathered together a group of business leaders in January 2020 and told them that in a few short weeks, they’d have all their employees working from home, there might have been more than a few dismissive chuckles. Many would not have thought it possible.
But the experiment has happened so what have we learned?
Certainly, much time has been saved on travelling to the office, to meetings and conferences – fewer vehicles on the roads, less fuel burnt, less carbon in the atmosphere.
The Rise Of Video Meetings
Video collaboration has undoubtedly provided an effective means of connecting employees in multiple environments to their colleagues and customers. There has been an incredible uptick in the use of video meetings software replacing everything from quick ‘one-to-one’ catch-ups to online ‘town-hall’ style conferences. Our technology partner StarLeaf has seen a huge increase in use of their ISO/IEC 27001 certified video meetings platform since the country went onto lockdown.
Employees have saved money on travel; utility bills for businesses have been slashed as office space went unoccupied. Many people working from home have felt more productive, been less stressed and have reset their sense of ‘work-life balance’.
But it’s not been the same for everyone. The experience of social isolation has been very real for many who prefer face-to-face contact with friends and colleagues.
Also, some home environments are just not conducive to remote working with no set working spaces available and all the distractions that make it hard to focus.
Getting Back To The Office
Lockdown has shown that most employees really can work from anywhere if required to do so. But many are now ready to get back to the office – at least for part of the working week.
“When we can work anywhere, we go to work for social interaction”. Professor Jeremy Myerson, Royal College of Art
Businesses leaders who are now planning a staged return to the office will need to recognise that, if given a choice, employees who opt to work from the office will be doing so for different reasons than before the lockdown.
But how do we make that happen? It’s certainly not as easy as moving a few desks around! How can businesses organise working spaces to safely promote social interactions and enable collaboration, flexibility and productivity?
And how can technology help to change the mindset, expectations and behaviours of people who return to work at the office?
The Transitional Workplace
A recent Gartner survey of 317 CFOs and Finance leaders on March 30, 2020 revealed that 74% will move at least 5% of their previously on-site workforce to permanently remote positions post-COVID 19.
Many businesses who have embraced remote working are now looking closely at the viability of their workspaces. However, the consensus that there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction remains.
Getting employees back to the office in the post-COVID-19 world certainly won’t be a straightforward task.
Safety is a priority. Staff working from the office must maintain physical distance, shared workstations and meeting rooms must be cleaned, and employees must feel confident that it’s safe to come into the office in the first place.
For those who continue to work remotely, it will be time to ensure that communications with colleagues and customers are as efficient as possible. This may mean replacing the series of collaboration’ tools’ hurriedly adopted when lockdown began with a single ‘best-of-breed’ solution such as Microsoft Teams with Cloud Calling; as well as investing in laptops, Internet connections and mobile devices for those who need them.
For many employees, the new flexible working week is likely to involve a combination of remote working and working from the office – but not always on a set routine.
Contact Tracing And The Burden Of Administration
And, of course, all of this must all be managed effectively, every single day. On top of all the usual administrative burdens of running a modern workplace, controlling all of the above could quickly become a huge headache.
Contact tracing requires that businesses must know:
- who is in the office
- when they’re in the office
- where they have been physically whilst in the office
If an employee becomes infected with Covid-19, the correct information must be available to health authorities so that entire floors or buildings do not have to be closed down for deep cleaning.
How can technology support the new flexible workplace?
Any workplace solutions or tools that can be leveraged to manage the phased return to the office, organise physical workspaces, maintain effective communications and reduce administrative overhead will be of enormous value.
Deep cleaning workspaces is expensive. Software-driven room and desk booking systems together with usage reporting will help to reduce these costs.
Creating The Smart Office
Our technology partner Fischer & Kerrn turns the concept of the ‘smart office’ into reality with a suite of innovative and user-friendly software booking tools combined with desk and room booking sensors, beacons and display panels.
Their unique Concierge Booking Software, built for Microsoft Outlook, Office 365 and mobile devices, provides a solution that revolutionises the way organisations plan meetings, book meeting rooms, manage visitors and desk spaces.
This complete modern workplace and meeting management solution includes:
- Meeting Scheduling with Room Booking and Catering Requests
- Desk Booking
- Meeting Room Panels
- Desk Booking Panels and sensors
- Mobile Booking app
- Visitor Management Reporting and Analytics
- Indoor Navigation
A Guide To The Smart Office – Free Download
Download this free information sheet covering the unique features of Fischer & Kerrn Concierge Booking Software and smart office desk sensors.
The solution makes your office space smarter and provides you with important information about how your office space and resources are being utilised.
It consists of a suite of software modules that enable frictionless booking of desks, meeting rooms, meeting room services (like catering) and visitor management – smoothly and trouble-free.
Efficient Room & Desk Management
The system provides clear guidance to employees working flexibly. If someone has no face-to-face meetings booked they might have the option to work from home. If they prefer to come to the office, the system will allocate a desk for their use or an alternative desk, should their preferred option be unavailable.
Smart meeting room scheduling and desk booking software increases the utilisation of all office workspaces, prevents double-bookings, and provides all employees with a clear understanding of the location, size, and facilities of meeting rooms and desks. It also increases room and desk utilisation, helping businesses to manage the limited physical office spaces and resources they have available.
Embracing The New Normal
Once the threat of COVID-19 subsides, the business world that emerges will be very different. The ‘new normal’ will bring with it an expectation of flexible working arrangements and a reduction in physical office space.
The office will become a less dense work environment with managed desk workspaces, meeting and huddle rooms and visitor management – a ‘hub’ to collaborate with colleagues and meet with clients.
We’re Ready To Help You
Datasharp Integrated Communications can help you navigate the options and successfully merge the benefits of a distributed workforce and a safe return to the office.
With the power of reputable workspace scheduling technology, you will be able to relieve the stress, reduce the risk and lessen the threat to your business that the ‘new normal’ might pose.
In a business world set to undergo revolutionary change in the months and years ahead, we’ll put you in pole position to adapt and evolve for a brighter future.
Contact us for a free, no obligation consultation today.
About Datasharp Integrated Communications
Datasharp Integrated Communications is an award-winning, leading provider of Unified Communications solutions including voice, data, mobile, video, network security, contact centre and collaboration technology for businesses of 50 – 5,000 staff.
We are a premier member of the Datasharp Group – established in 1980 – one of the longest-standing and most respected communications solution providers in the UK.
We have clients across the south of England and in Europe and our own, on-premises, 1,000 ft² Technology Suite at our Bath office, where we host regular events and showcase technology solutions for our clients. Contact us for your free comms audit or product demo.
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