For many companies defining the post-COVID-19 period is problematic. Employees and also candidates looking for a new job pose new demands regarding the flexibility to choose their own workplace, sometimes even being in another country from where the permanent office location is.
Replanning office space
I have recently been part of a number of discussions with line managers and HR on this topic. Some companies have already replanned their office space by reducing the number of workplaces, some companies are waiting to see how the pandemic will continue impacting and some companies expect to go back to normal with less changes. In these discussions I see some recurring questions coming up which might be helpful for all companies to reconsider.
Looking at the workplace strategies there has already before COVID-19 been an increasing demand to allow more flexibility when it comes to physical presence at the workplace. There are many ways to describe what alternatives the company can choose from. From the workplace design perspective, you should need to consider at least the following parameters.
Assess the operational need for the physical presence
First, you need to assess the operational need for the physical presence. For example, for many engineering companies there is still a need to have access to expensive tools and products. Also, some working tools are impossible to send to employee´s home or the cost would be too high. Home working can also mean that you need an expensive laptop instead of having a cheaper stationary computer at the workplace.
You need to define your need to collaborate informally and change ideas in a more spontaneous way. My colleague Börje Hammarling wrote last week on innovation and importance of informal meetings at the workplace. (article in Swedish).
Regard corporate culture as a strategic asset
The most successful businesses and organizations regard their corporate culture as a strategic asset and competitive advantage. This means that you need to assess what kind of workplace is suitable to ensure implementation of company culture, values, and behaviors. This is very important when you employ new employees (or managers) and introduce them to company.
You would need to consider the talent expectations regarding the workplace strategy. There are very individual approaches to this topic, and you need to know your current and future workforce and avoid making strategies choices by intuition. To simplify, many of us are looking forward to coming back to the workplace. Some will expect more flexibility, and some will definitively prefer to work from home full time.
What are the main trends and how companies are preparing themselves? The answer will vary a lot and depends on the actual needs, nature of the business, cultural issues and also workforce demands. Some trends are however already visible.
Provide more flexibility
The companies will need to provide more flexibility when it comes to presence in the work unless they have good reasons to force strict presence at the office. This will most likely mean a hybrid model which includes flexibility and allowing people to work from anywhere and modifying the office environment to meet the needs of social collaboration, culture building and for having meetings or dedicated workplaces for certain purposes (specific equipment etc). We also believe companies will offer working “hubs” in terms of co-working places to attract remote workers outside of their main locations. We see also in large cities this option becoming more and more popular, allowing employees to meet close to their homes and still meeting colleagues.
We believe that for the companies wanting to attract the best talents, the office strategies will be based upon the practical needs and guidelines rather than setting strict rules.
We at AIMS International Sweden are specialized to support companies broadly when working with Talent Management issues including building new ways-of-working and providing Coaching, Leadership Assessments and Executive Search. Please contact us in AIMS International Sweden in case you want to hear more from the solutions we can provide.
Mikko Taipale works as Partner & Executive Search and Talent Management Consultant in AIMS International Sweden. Before starting in AIMS International Sweden he worked close to 20 years in large corporates as a HR leader.