Are you ready for Post-Covid office?
Post Covid...What Happens to the Office?
While local vaccination efforts are underway, the extended state of emergency in Japan seems to indicate we are not fully in the clear just yet and it may still take some time before things return to their previous state (if at all). Despite this, business leaders are already actively making plans for a post-Covid world.
One focus area looks at reviving office work or, put another way, reviving the sense of company culture that was centered around physical presence. Remote work has now completely penetrated our lives and has brought us new discoveries and benefits in many aspects. How we manage this new way of working is a topic of great interest to many people.
Looking at examples of overseas companies that have reopened their offices, there are 3 notable trends in their respective strategies.
(1) Continuing remote work
This is especially true of companies that had already experimented with styles of remote work before the pandemic. For them this is a seamless transition.
2) Restoration of full office work
This comes as close as possible to the pre-Covid working environment. Financial services firms such as JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs are opting for this approach.
3) Hybrid work
Many companies are also exploring middle ground through hybrid work formats.
The following strategies are gaining acceptance:
Full Flexibility - Combination of office and remote
Satellite Office - Downsize offices and decentralize locations. This eases the burden of commuting time for employees and helps them maintain a higher quality of work-life balance.
Social Hub Office - Provide an office environment that focuses on employee communication and activity (collaborative free desks and lounges as the primary workspace).
When it comes to employee response to these initiatives, there seems to be a difference in choice depending on demographics. Women prefer hybrid work, Managers tend to advocate for a full return, and Gen Z employees prioritize their freedom to work remotely.
On the other hand, there are some employees who do not want to return to office work in order to prioritize their offsite efficiency.
How best to go about it?
The choice of how to reopen the office will be based on the characteristics of the industry and strategy of your business.
In any case, the Post-Covid will continue to drive further changes in the work environment.
Has the pandemic broadened our thinking in terms of what might be possible?
By being forced to act quickly in unexpected situations, organizations have accomplished things they never thought possible. Ranging from online meetings and virtual communication to project management, sales and training, the list of newly adopted practices continues to grow.
We have learned that we must always be aware of future uncertainty and maintain agility in any given situation. This lesson must have had a great impact on management philosophy as well.
As we reopen the office, leaders will need to assess what worked and what didn't work for their remote workforce. Based on learnings and feedback, companies should identify priorities to build a sustainable roadmap going forward.
One way to do this is to conduct a questionnaire survey of all employees, analyze the results, and introduce new initiatives.
Here are some points to bear in mind when doing this.
1: Clarify the rules and evaluation criteria under the new approach (update the work rules).
2: Clarify the tasks and activities that can be remotely maintained and make sure that those that can't are properly explained.
3: Leaders should be role models for new organizational behaviors and communicate them through their daily actions.
4: Provide a psychologically safe environment where employees who are concerned about returning to office work can discuss their concerns and consider the best way to be flexible.
Do people think it's hard to engage remotely?
Lastly, about creating and strengthening culture through new initiatives.
Do you think that face-to-face communication is essential for collaboration and engagement, and that it is essential for building a culture? Or Do you think an office is necessary for this?
It is true that some companies are renovating their offices into hybrid offices, focusing on engagement/ collaboration by reducing the amount of traditional space and adding communication spaces, but do you really think that face-to-face communication is the only way to increase engagement, activate collaboration, and maintain and develop a culture?
As mentioned at the beginning, we have discovered many new possibilities through remote work. As technology continues to improve and hybrid work becomes the default way of working, we may need to rethink how we view culture itself.
In other words, culture should not only be cultivated and developed in the office, where employees gather, but also in all environments where people engage and collaborate (home office, online communication, remote teamwork, remote meetings, etc.) out side of office.
Leaders may also need to change their perceptions of culture and engagement, and reflect this in their management decisions.
In other words, forming a successful hybrid culture may be the next big challenge on the horizon.