While there is a growing consensus the world will never return to “normal,” it seems fair to say the same about the traditional office.
One outcome from Covid-19 is the forced digital transformation. But is it possible we’re not taking a dramatic enough viewpoint of the looming changes? Instead of looking to a post-pandemic world, perhaps we should consider the post-office world.
The idea that working from wherever is most convenient for teams is now a reality, and it’s not going away. So, why don’t we declare the traditional office a thing of the past?
We commissioned The Harris Poll to delve into American workers’ mindsets in the wake of the pandemic. Perhaps not surprisingly, a majority of employed Americans (61%) are working from home due to the pandemic, but what might come as a bit of a shock is that three in four (75%) said working from home made them realize many in-person meetings are unnecessary. And more than half (54%) said they aren’t ready to attend large in-person events and conferences for work.
So, why make them?
Now is the time to put the framework in place to enable remote working in the near-term and the long-term.
There is no consensus on the office of the future.
As many communities continue to reopen, there is an ongoing conversation about how — and where — to work. While there is widespread agreement that the office experience will change, that’s where the consensus ends.
There is no practical way the world returns to the office of yesterday with employees crammed elbow to elbow in an open environment. Just think of the average office’s conference room: Will teams be required to maintain a six-foot bubble around themselves in a conference room while in the office?
We could endlessly discuss how to proceed, but we would be spinning our wheels. So, we need to stop viewing the office as the incubator of collaboration and remember it’s the tools and the teams that foster true collaboration.
Focus on your talent.
“The right talent will win the day” is a sentiment that was true before the pandemic, and it is true after. If the pandemic has done anything, it’s put to rest the idea that companies need to invest in office space, and it’s illustrated that they need to invest in their talent and tools to keep them collaborative and connected.
Organizations must double down on this notion and invest the money they save from reductions in travel and rent to growing their talent pool.
Research from Gallup found that Americans’ well-being dropped to a 12-year low — a concerning trend that has potentially significant ramifications for a team’s work product and ability to function. It reached a level not seen since 2008, amid the Great Recession.
However, our survey with The Harris Poll revealed another bright spot: More than four in 10 (41%) of employed Americans working from home because of the pandemic say it’s had a very or somewhat positive impact on work-life balance.
Teams need a human touch.
The idea of “employee engagement” is taking on a new meaning in the current era. With teams trapped inside their homes because of social distancing requirements, team members’ ability to get face time with their colleagues is more critical than ever. Video conferencing technology is helping teams adjust to this new business environment and become more productive.
We’re at a turning point, and I believe we will see remote collaboration become a permanent choice for those who never even entertained the option before the pandemic. But, it’s not just related to work; people are also turning to remote video for virtual health appointments, homeschooling and social interactions.
‘Work’ is just a piece of the puzzle.
Team members are continuing to learn and balance their work and personal obligations. And, as the world enters the “next normal,” teams aren’t likely to return to an era defined by work hours and personal hours.
We must remember there are more significant issues at play. While work is an integral part of life, we must keep in mind it’s just a part of life, and team members today are drawn in many different directions.
Our survey with The Harris Poll found two in five say working from home had a positive effect on their personal development, while nearly six in 10 (59%) say it positively impacted their time spent with their family.
It’s been easy for organizations to look at their teams working from home and think they are on call 24/7, but they are not. The teams that thrive will be the ones that work for leaders who recognize 24/7 availability is not feasible and empower them to handle personal matters alongside their professional obligations.
This is where the right platforms and procedures are essential.
The team and its leaders matter more now.
Before the pandemic, Gartner Inc. found the top priorities of human resources leaders were to “build critical skills and competencies for the organization,” “strengthen the current and future leadership bench” and “implement organizational design and change management.”
Knowing what the world does now, it doesn’t seem like anything on that list should change. But I would argue the transition should begin with strengthening leadership for both today and tomorrow and building collaboration across teams.
I’ve long advocated for strong leaders to guide an organization through tumultuous times, and while the impacts of Covid-19 have perfectly illustrated that point, the need for leadership will continue to be of paramount importance as the world navigates the uncertainties ahead.