Eighty-one percent of US office workers have been working at home four or five days a week since COVID-19, and 71 percent would like to continue working from home. Further, some 70 percent of managers report that their workers’ performance is the same or better from home as it is in the office.[i]
Meanwhile, Fed. Chairman Jerome Powell said Monday US unemployment may hit 25 percent this summer. While he does not predict a Great-Depression style slump, the US economy might not fully recover until the end of 2021.
Companies need a bold, long-term strategy to improve the work-from-home experience and redesign the office for the post-COVID19 normal.
Organizations such as Twitter, Open Text, Skift Inc. are seriously rethinking the office environment and are acting boldly. Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey notified employees last Tuesday that they would be able to work from home even after the pandemic is over, with exceptions for some jobs that cannot be done remotely.
Canadian information-technology provider OpenText Corp. expects to eliminate more than half of its 120 offices globally. And Skift Inc., a New York media company, is giving up its Manhattan headquarters when its lease expires in July.[ii]
Researchers Kate Lister and Dr. Anita Kamouri in a May 2020 survey show that the sweet spot for working from home is two to three days a week, with employees coming into the office to collaborate during meetings or to build relationships during events. I highly recommend you read this valuable document, which provides the latest information on productivity increases, and cost and carbon emission savings from remote work.
My view is that the office of the future–which, by the way, is NOW–will be more of a place for project team meetings, conferences, and one-on-one feedback and performance meetings and not a place to do undistracted work. Because of the need for social distancing, the trend of crowding office workers into open bays (at 151 square feet per office worker, down from 225 in 2010) will reverse and those who have to be in the office full-time will have more space and other safeguards from infections.
Remote work and the office of the future are most effective with a comprehensive and bold digital strategy. To improve the productivity and collaboration for your remote and office-based workforce and protect them from infection and your company from legal liability, you will need to provide the time, space, and technology for where and when they work. This new vision will require a comprehensive digital strategy. For remote work, it will require upgrades to IT technology. At a minimum, it will mean moving more of your documents and common resources online and improved broadband and internet security.
Comprehensive digital strategies include the use of intelligent digital assistants to answer employee questions on policy, IT, budgeting, and human resources issues. It may also require future improvements to virtual team meetings, virtual onboarding for new hires, and more virtual training. However, we have found that the cost of these upgrades is recovered from the increased productivity and reduced office space costs.
Furthermore, McKinsey’s research shows that bold moves to comprehensive digital technologies early and at scale, as opposed to an incremental approach, combined with a heavy allocation of resources for digital initiatives correlate highly with value creation.
What is holding you back from establishing long-term remote work strategies and rethinking the office environment?
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[i] Dr. Anita Kamori and Kate Lister, “Work From Home Experience Survey Results,” May 2020. https://globalworkplaceanalytics.com/global-work-from-home-experience-survey.
[ii] Dana Mattioli and Konrad Putzier, “When It’s Time to Go Back to the Office, Will It Still Be There? As companies prepare for employees to return, they are asking whether a traditional headquarters is still necessary. The workplace will likely never be the same again,” The Wall Street Journal, May 16, 2020, 12:00 AM ET. https://www.wsj.com/articles/when-its-time-to-go-back-to-the-office-will-it-still-be-there-11589601618