Post-COVID19: New ways of working mean new possibilities in our work spaces.

By Georgie Chennells

Our workplaces will never be the same. But it’s not all doom and gloom: we’re going to see an increase in mobile working, which will lead to organisations making better use of less space.

Often the hardest and most crucial part of change management is motivating employees to adopt this new thing.

With COVID19 upon us and the urgent need for people to get out of circulation and work from home, we’re basically on a fast track to adoption of mobile working and the digital workplace.

Digital collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Google’s G suite now won’t need to go through a standard change management process of being communicated, workshopped and massaged into being. The keystone to their adoption, motivation, is already there.

Our traditionally conservative workforce, usually hampered by bad wifi and other connectivity issues, now has very little choice but to each find a way to make this digital transition work.

The result of this could be an accelerated adoption of new ways of working in South Africa. All the talk about 4IR is finally going to become very real as the digital workplace becomes the norm, and mobile working opens doors to new ways of being “at the office”.

This shift can play out in various ways:

  • The meaning of work becomes what we do, not where we go.

The focus can move from a “clock in” mentality to a “what I contribute” mindset, where peoples’ deliverables and actual roles within their organisation are more defined and valued.

  • The need for human connection requires a conscious effort.

It can be lonely looking at a screen. We will all need to make an effort to connect on a human level through conversation - asking how someone’s day is going, what music they’re listening to, or what their dog in the background’s name is, for example. Healthy habits for our own sanity.

  • The physical workplace becomes a central place of connection.

The office space focus shifts from being a “big machine” to a central point of gathering, perhaps with satellites (or outsourced coworking spaces in neighbourhoods): a place where people go not only get work done, but to connect in person and address the more complex, challenging interactions such as team workshops. The central workplace becomes a place of experiential significance. It’s a place that serves to align its people in purpose, and generate that sense of belonging and connection that the digital world cannot.

  • The long term effects on business space will lead to less, but better functioning space.

Think of it as a sharpening of the pencil. We’ll start to see downsizing of workplaces as organisations realise that with a more mobile workforce they actually need less space. Why pay for the space, servicing and equipment for whole desk per employee if they’re only 60% occupied? Additionally, increasing costs of operating are increasing pressure on spatial spend. A focus on spatial efficiency through smart design can mean achieving more, with less.

With the rate of change of our world today, surely COVID19 won’t be the last big shift we see in our lifetimes.

Could our response to the pandemic actually fast track a more efficient, effective and happier workforce?

And could our flexing of these adaptive muscles be the start of a general strengthening of our resilience in the face of coming exponential change?

Feel free to share your thoughts


Photo credit: Benjamin Child on Unsplash

#newwaysofworking #commercialproperty #workplacestrategy #coworking

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