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Workplace

The future of the workplace is a topic that has been widely discussed for many years, driven by the consumerisation of IT, changing employee expectations and improved connectivity.

The huge leap in demand for remote working due to the pandemic tested IT teams and organisations who had been slow to implement remote working capabilities. Even more, it tested the culture and pre-conceptions of organisations about their ability to continue to deliver services if all office-based employees were not actually in the office.

Both the capabilities of IT to rapidly deliver change, and the ability of individuals and teams to adapt to new circumstances, were perhaps more successful than anyone expected and so this now drives a new question: what will the new workplace be like?

Potential Benefits For Companies

Now that employee and employer expectations about remote working have been firmly set, the benefit to organisations of putting in place a clear set of principles and technologies to support a blend of home and office working are starting to be made clear. These include:

  • Improved employee satisfaction based on better work / life balance
  • Improved efficiency from areas such as reduced travel and improved focus
  • Reduced cost and complexity of business continuity planning
  • Reduction in office space costs
  • Increased customer engagement and communication due to more engaged and aware employees

 

Potential Challenges

The challenges that organisations are likely to face around putting in place a new workplace strategy include organisational attitude to change, HR policies and business processes, as well as the technology itself. The risk that is faced by many organisations is that the forced change due to the pandemic is the start of a longer-term cultural change, they will be expected to be agile enough to make continuous improvements to workplace and remote working services and to ensure that business and IT are highly aligned so that the technology in place accurately reflects the business need.

The post-pandemic workplace is likely to have to be more flexible, with staff more likely to blend home working with office working. This change sounds simple but will have wide-ranging impacts including:

  • Securing systems and data appropriately
  • Making office space more efficient, blending desk space, meeting space, collaboration space and social space more effectively
  • Implementing more technology to support collaboration and promoting corporate culture when there is a mix of present and remote working
  • Educating users and leaders about best practice in using the new tools
  • Identifying and addressing any ‘quick-fixes’ needed when the technology was implemented rapidly at the start of the pandemic
  • Increased focus on employee well-being and mental health

Organisations will need to consider what they want their work environment to be, perhaps more so than previously. This will need to include principles covering areas such as:

  • Expected time in the office vs home / elsewhere
  • Use of office desk space and meeting space
  • Expected communication between employees
  • Ways of collaborating
  • Standards around worktime / availability
  • Codes of conduct for using collaboration tools
  • Standards around what activities should be in-person vs remote

Organisations will also need to assess their need for appropriate tools that cover remote working and also areas such as room / desk booking, social interaction, data management, collaboration, time / presence management and possibly also HR and health management.

Organisations may also fall into the trap of viewing the (successful) temporary changes made to quickly address the situation in March and April 2020 as suitable permanent fixes without conducting the necessary risk and functionality reviews to ensure that this is the case.

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COEUS’ APPROACH

Our recommendations to move forward in addressing these risks, as well as to continue to evolve the new workplace arrangements, are:

  • Ensure that all changes made to deliver remote working (technology and business process) are documented. Review these changes to identify potential technology, security and process risks that need to be either addressed, mitigated or accepted
  • Work with colleagues from across all areas of the organisation to assess these changes and understand the process and culture benefits as well as any issues to be resolved.
  • Identify the key business areas and job roles that could benefit from further changes to the workplace
  • Understand the current organisational approach to technology and business process change, is the organisation capable of agile learning, failing fast and conducting meaningful tests of new opportunities
  • Understand how employees work best. Similarly, to customer journeys, employee journeys help to identify where and when they need to interact with systems, collaborate and communicate and to identify bottlenecks, frustrations and opportunities for improvement based on different workplace arrangements