POST COVID-19 and THE OFFICE OF THE FUTURE
As we prepare to begin to open up our state and businesses to return to work, the next phase of planning and the ultimate impact of COVID-19 on our future office spaces needs to be addressed. If you are a company or a hiring manager with influence in your business, have you taken the time to map out all the obstacles and challenges ahead for your existing staff as well as for talent strategies? Besides the fact that we do business in the most employee favorable state, with stringent and often-times highly litigious workers compensation laws, have you thought yet about how your office will look moving forward post this pandemic?
Many businesses have been planning for this eventual day and yet shockingly still, many have not. There are a myriad of challenges that come to mind and in the following blog-post, we will help to try and address some of the challenges, and potential opportunities that businesses today can take advantage of to remain both competitive but also safe.
These new protocols will come from a variety of different mandates – from state and local government, from ownership and the C Suite, from your existing staff, and don’t forget, what your future staff will be looking for as they address their next career move.
Smart business owners will have thought about how to address the impact of requires social distancing standards within the office, these will fall into a few categories:
Pre-Opening, Opening, Future State:
For Pre-Opening – this section includes arguably the largest challenge and bulk of the required attention. Items that encompass everything from,
Your stockpile of appropriate cleaning products, PPE and protocols (do you use vendors, what are their policies?), what are your building entry policies/ security protocols (will you require temperate checks at the door?), how will you deal with lobbies and elevators or common area regulations? How will you modify your amenities and food/kitchen offerings and cleanliness?
How will you determine who is allowed to enter the building and when? How will you reconfigure your office floor plan and desks?, will you put up shields, will desks be cleaned at the end of each day?
Opening– After addressing who returns to work and how, how do you ensure safety and distancing throughout the day? Are facemasks required? What about gloves or hand sanitizer? What are your policies around personal space and interaction for departments that historically are more collaborative and work in group meetings? Have you considered removing furniture to discourage gatherings? Is there any new technology you can implant such as touchless technologies through the office, from entry to restrooms, thay may help?
Future State – after all of these exhaustive efforts, which will you choose to keep long term? How will this alter your future office work conditions, policies, healthcare, recruitment, and every facet of how you do business moving forward?
The businesses that will continue to thrive will be nimble enough to adjust now, but confident enough to keep many of these changes we are not experiencing permanently into their fabric. They will wisely use this as a chance to decentralize their operations and allow continued remote/ work from home. Not only will this be best practice and attractive to your existing and future staff, but it will also help to cut highly burdensome and expensive costs such as real estate/rent, operations, insurance and facilities related expenses due to having less people in the office. As added benefit in all of this will easily be the ability to leverage these cost savings to free up working capital that can easily be reinvested in other areas of the business, such as technology transformations, or increases in headcount or sales and digital marketing spend. Lastly, businesses should realize the massive potential being afforded to them in the form of real and measurable increases in productivity due to the increased flexibility that staff has had over these past months.
Yes we want all the comradery and atmosphere that our work lives bring us (and let’s be honest, getting a break from working and parenting AND schooling all in a cramped house we can’t really leave will be refreshing). But as you look at implementing new protocols and policies, are you strictly making a top down mandate or have you thought about & surveyed your employee base to truly understand their concerns and the potential hazards that come with returning to a crowded office, post COVID-19? Inherently, employees want to work at companies that feel they listen to them, are inclusive and have their best interests in mind. This is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate that level of commitment to your current and future staff.
Multiple times now we have referenced “future staff”, ie those potential employees you have not yet hired but will inevitably look to join your company in one way or the other in the future. Even if you are an organization that has already thought about and started to tackle many of these challenges, have you thought about how you can leverage them in your talent acquisition strategy and marketing efforts?
For years, employees have been desperate to find companies that allowed for greater flexibility and remote work options. Even some of the most cutting edge and “progressive” tech companies have been resistant to that push, believing that productivity and business will suffer. We like to think that only internet based tech companies can afford remote workers. If this pandemic has taught us anything, besides the importance of both family and a renewed respect for others and our community, it’s that almost any job can be from almost anywhere with the help of technologies like Slack, Zoom, and so many others. It proves that despite every managers fear of having to monitor productivity and the effectiveness of a remote worker, constantly wondering if or how hard an employee is truly working, that when we had no other choice but to adapt and acquiesce to this instant change, it was unequivocally proven that not only were the fears unfounded, but perhaps maybe they have held us back further than we know. Maybe now will be the time that CEOs and Boards take notice and forever and demonstratively alter the landscape of what the “office of the future” looks like and potentially whole classifications of industries moving forward.