Here's a digest from our recent webinar with workplace experts from Nationwide and AICPA & CIMA on the organisational and operational challenges teams will face as workplaces adapt to the rise of hybrid working.
Workings towards a new normal
As the concern about the Omicron variant triggers another ‘work from home’ message, organisations will have to again revert back to supporting their employees remotely. This, along with a sustained period of home working and flexibility in the locations we carry out our work has many pondering what this means in the long term and what the future model of work support looks like.
After the conversations with those from the different professional disciplines, the answer is “it depends”.
That won’t satisfy anyone who is desperate for answers but my recent conversation with Patrick O’Farrell of Nationwide and Dereck Dziva of AICPA & CIMA, in our recent webinar, demonstrates how two organisations, although thematically facing similar challenges, each had unique scenarios that they had to find solutions for.
Priorities in emerging challenges
Dereck, in a global role, had to consider different phases of the pandemic in different geographical locations. He had to consider local cultural norms. He had to consider the different spaces in different countries and their ability to provide safe work.
Patrick had to balance office spaces and retail spaces, all the while providing crucial financial services to millions. He had to beef up security in their high street locations as frustrations boiled over. But both agreed, the focus was always on their people.
First ensuring their safety and then looking at what they could do to improve and stabilise their experience whilst adjustments were made.
So that, perhaps, is really the answer for those looking for a model. It’s talking to your people and building an experience around their specific needs that support your organisation's specific objectives.
Whose voice matters?
That might sound simple but I’m not sure that there is really a consistent culture of working with employees to co-create workplace experiences, outside of the consultations that typically take place before a new build, location move or refurbishment.
Whilst those consultations are crucial and welcome, what tends to be lacking is the continuous conversation afterwards. The conversations that lead to tweaks, adjustments, review of approach, complete changes as the world evolves around us.
A need to move at a different pace, in partnership with employees, came up when we discussed location. Of course, work from anywhere means talent from anywhere, and that is an exciting prospect but with property leasing models being famously rigid and long term it is going to be very difficult for organisations to remain ‘agile’ in the locations they provide.
It’s clear, like we discussed in episode one, that service markets are going to have to rethink their model and that’s going to have a ripple effect through several connected and supporting markets.
Keeping employees central in planning
Aside from the technical challenges that the new world of work may bring there is also an expectation challenge. Dereck referred to the proverbial ‘John Doe’ who now feels like they know as much about their workplace environment as the team that is providing it to them.
Perhaps employee expectations have shifted and perhaps the power equation which one could argue sat more with employers who would make decisions about how, where and when you worked is now shifting to employees.
I would suggest that this should have always been the case but not in a power tussle but in a collaborative approach to creating the conditions that support good work. The pandemic may have injected some much needed focus into two areas that can support that collaboration moving forward.
The first, as a continuation of the previous point, is an increased frequency and depth in conversation with employees. Checking in with them, asking for their views. Rather than annual, ten minutes surveys, perhaps shorter, sharper interventions (although many of the solutions for these still lack the depth that workplace teams need to act; one for another time).
Data is central to workplace management
The other area is data. Something that OpenSensors CEO Yodit Stanton, states in the webinar.
As the pandemic took hold and challenges sharpened, there was a move to capture, understand and interpret data at a level not seen before March 2020. Suddenly floor spaces, occupancy levels and air quality is becoming crucial.
Working with organisations across the UK and US, Yodit has seen clients rely heavily on data to inform the designs of their workplace, plan their return to work strategies and ensure they stay ahead of the curve as workplace regulations fluctuate as COVID19 guidelines change.
The real value comes when you combine objective data like those provided by sensors with sentiment data from employees. It is that rounded view that can help workplace teams:
- Navigate the challenges in this ever changing landscape
- Help inform our decisions and give us the confidence to make them
- Measure the impact of office utilisation given the recent Government announcement, and quickly adapt when needed
So rather than search for a model, perhaps it’s a methodology that we need.
An approach. A mindset. One that says firstly we’re going to understand our people and their work as much as possible. We’re going to develop a series of programmes off the back of that. And we’ll measure how well that works and adjust as we go.
Painfully simple to say, tricky to do but very achievable and data holds the key.
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