Aitch Are Gives You...
As the days lengthen and warm up, and the Covid restrictions start to ease here in the UK, it's hard not to feel a sense of optimism once more.
There's much to do however, particularly with regard to the lurking wellbeing crisis that will need addressing after a difficult 12 months.
During this time, the world of work has been under the spotlight like never before. And now, as companies grapple with what life after Covid may look like, one area of particular interest is what future the role of the office will have, given the likelihood that an increased proportion of people are likely to adopt a more "hybrid" approach to working.
Mark Catchlove (https://www.linkedin.com/in/markcatchlove/, @markcatchlove) knows a thing or two about offices, given he is Director of the Insights team at Herman Miller, so who better to pop along to our last week's International HR Forum session to facilitate a discussion about this?
Anecdotally, taking members of the International HR Forum as a yardstick, we are seeing a range of approaches. Some companies are closing offices. Some are reducing their footprint. Others are repurposing what they use their offices for.
On a more scientific basis, the recent Leesman Index showed that 85% of people intend to either work from an office for only up to 1 day a week (37%), or 2-3 days a week (48%). On the face of it, this shift will have a profound impact on how companies operate.
However, Mark did highlight that in reality Covid has accelerated what was happening already. For example:
- The increased emphasis on collaboration in different ways in different settings.
- Moving away from a few large meeting rooms to an increased number of smaller spaces.
- Assigned desks moving way to shared work areas.
- Privacy (not being disturbed) on-demand (through quiet areas) rather than as a luxury.
- Creating "hubs" or "plazas" as a hub for the work community.
- The increased importance of collaboration zones and circulation spaces.
For all the positives that have emerged with increased working from home, Mark's view is that there will always be a role for an office, and that companies should take care in doing anything as a knee-jerk reaction to the employee experience during Covid. Research is key to look at how things were before Covid and during the pandemic before looking at any changes after Covid. Particularly in the light of the fundamental needs that any employee needs, such as:
- Physical and mental security.
- A sense of belonging, and connections with colleagues.
- Having a sense of purpose, and of achievement.
- Autonomy, freedom to choose.
Any shift in office strategy should therefore be careful and planned, with a purposeful approach to:
- Change management.
- Sorting out the IT to ensure the ability to participate on an equal footing.
- Employee welfare.
- Equipping managers to lead remote teams.
- Making sure the office environment is one that people will want to experience.
Mark's parting comment was that "the office is not dead, it is just becoming more fluid".
A large thanks to Mark for sharing his insights. This is very much top-of-mind for most companies, so it was a very timely session.
Here are the links to some of the info referenced by Mark during the session:
Fundamental human needs:
Leesman homeworking research:
Psychology of collaboration space:
Upcoming workplace webinars:
Herman Miller Insight YouTube channel:
And finally, an article recommended by IHRF member Cliff Taylor following the session:
Thanks all! Stay well, be good, and see you soon :)