Our experiences of working remotely over the last few months have changed our perception about the role of the office and accelerated us towards a future we only used to talk about. Many companies are in the process of assessing their real estate strategy in line with how they think people and organizations will work post-COVID-19. But with so much uncertainty still surrounding us, how do we make our best bets? In our recent webinar with AmCham Belgium, my colleagues at AECOM and I shared how we are thinking about the future workplace.
1. UNDERSTAND THE BIG TRENDS THAT WILL SHAPE THE FUTURE OF WORK AND HOW THEY AFFECT YOUR ORGANIZATION
Our collective experiences over the last few months will shape the office of the future for the better. The future of work centers on people and their wellbeing. There will be an increased emphasis put on community, and both landlords and users will use data in sophisticated feedback loops to enhance performance and experience. What a company stands for and values will become more and more critical to how it attracts talent. People will demand companies do good, focusing on sustainability and inclusion. More on these and other big trends here.
2. LOOKING BACK: TAKE TIME TO REFLECT ON LESSONS LEARNED IN THE LAST THREE TO SIX MONTHS
Overwhelmingly, we are hearing from organizations that they will not return to a pre-COVID-19 state of working. While we can’t do everything remotely, we can do a lot more than we thought and have a far greater capacity to adopt digital collaboration tools. That’s not to say that there’s no need for an “office” – we do miss it. And it’s become clear what it is that we miss. We will go back because we want to connect with each other and the company we work for, to mentor and coach, to unite in a common purpose and be part of a community and engage in intense collaboration that’s often required for innovation and growth.
3. BE READY FOR A SECOND WAVE OR ANOTHER SUPER VIRUS
In the immediate and near term, we think actions are necessary in the following categories:
- Operational – functional processes that have been developed, communicated and deployed to keep employees safe such as entry protocols, disinfecting routines, queuing for lifts, etc.
- Behavioral – shifts and modifications required by employees such as social distancing, wearing of masks, clean desks, etc.
- Spatial – design interventions that are necessary to keep employees safe such as screening, signage, room densities, etc.
AECOM has put together a guide on the immediate priorities that organizations should focus on in our Workplace Re-occupancy document.
4. 2021 AND BEYOND: WHAT IS THE OFFICE?
We can only draw from what we know and learned to make our best guess. We believe that the future workplace will be a system of places both physical and virtual. The future is about providing seamless integration and consistent user experience as we move around our different places of work – home, co-working spaces, full-on VR, a little bit of AR, city HQs, regional satellite offices, your local community center. It will be about modularity and adaptability – spaces will do more than one thing (we’ve all converted our homes into an office / gym / yoga studio recently) to fulfil our work and personal needs.
So, the question really is – how will organizations do it? How will they design, manage and exert the right levels of control (security, brand, culture, identity, performance) across a diverse spectrum of multi-dimensional workplaces?
About the author
June has a varied experience, from developing workplace guidelines for global consumption and creating strategic briefs for HQs and campuses to leveraging workplaces as part of organizational transformation, elevating the value of workplaces and supporting culture change.