Everyone has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. On both a work and personal level difficult decisions have been taken, sacrifices have been made, challenges faced, and losses endured.
We are going to have to reform our expectations of what the ‘new normal’ should be. So, what may the new ‘normal’ look like?
Businesses may look for self-contained premises where they have increased control over the environmental factors their employees encounter and who has access. There could be a reluctance to rent space in tower blocks of open-plan offices containing an untold number of co-located enterprises all forced to share the same air, lifts, toilets, kitchens and meeting rooms.
How we work
Senior executives may be more open to flexible and remote working on a sustained basis. Businesses that have been ‘forced’ to let employees work from home during the lockdown now have first-hand experience to back the claims of increased productivity and performance that results from employees being engaged and able to choose how and where they work given the outcomes they need to deliver.
Employees themselves may start to insist on more flexible working patterns and empowerment to work from other locations, as suddenly the fragility of life is at the forefront of all our minds. Where employers are unable to flex, they may start to vote with their feet, and look for opportunities to work with businesses that better align with how they now want to live. This could see large-scale changes in how we recruit, our benefits offering, and the terms and conditions expected within contracts of employment. Potentially we will see the use of contracted hours and place of work becoming redundant.
Our demand to be digitally connected in all parts of life is likely to continue to increase. 5G and the scale potential this advertises cannot come quick enough. If businesses are to thrive in this newly connected and hyper-speed world, we will have to design ourselves on a digital-first basis, ideally with our rule-based repetitive processes automated as we will need our humans to think, strategise and make decisions using all the data that becomes available to us.
Our employees are becoming more digitally savvy and expect increasing access to make technical improvements in their work for themselves. For remote workers to thrive, it is essential they are fully supported with the correct digital tools to change their behaviours. This could see a tussle between technical teams who must control and govern the IT estate and the operations teams who wish to improve and build new capabilities. Our customers’ needs and the potential to create value, in a sustainable and safe way, must be the key factors we use to guide our decisions about what, when and how much to digitise.
Rethinking office space
With fewer people needing to be in the office at the same time, it creates an opportunity to truly disrupt how we use our real estate. If the restrictions of always having to have a desk for every employee is lifted, just think about how much floor-space you have at your disposal to create engaging and productive spaces that could accelerate your employees creativity, learning and delivery of results for your customers. If you combine this with people choosing to have more online meetings than in-person meetings, the possibilities for innovative businesses to create flexible spaces that work smarter for them, on smaller footprints, become very real.
Finally, what if?
A key question that we should all ask more often. What if dreaming of a miraculous return to normal is the wrong dream to have? Would it be better to dream of a better ‘normal’? A normal where employees’ health and wellbeing is put first; where how we work is designed to improve productivity and performance; where life choices are aligned with the businesses we serve; where we embrace connectivity to make better decisions based on data; where we are digital first and create safe spaces for our colleagues to experiment with technology; and where we rethink our office space to create flexible spaces that work smarter on smaller footprints. I like the sound of that. Now I just need to make it happen…