Return to work – resistance or enthusiasm?

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The return to work is stirring up a range of emotions for workers. Some are feeling resistant to a return to the office while others are enthusiastically embracing the opportunity to meet up face to face with their peers after a long absence.

While both responses are equally valid, the return to the office will inevitably happen in some shape or form. What is clear is that the office experience is going to be a lot different going forward with changes designed to both satisfy the work from home advocates and those who thrive on face to face collaboration.

A changing landscape

While it may be tempting for some leaders to dismiss employee reluctance and enforce office working it may not be prudent to do so.

A recent survey from Aon in partnership with IPSOS found that employee well-being is a critical factor in increased performance and in managing change.

Leaders now need to take into account the well-being of their staff who have several reasons to want to work from home. They may be fearful of infection or who face a long commute or they may be feel productive working from home. By the same token they also need to take into account the needs of those workers who thrive on the office environment or who simply can’t work from home because they lack the resources.

The hybrid approach to work is the best strategy all around for satisfying leaders and all workers while fostering the necessary face to face collaboration that is essential to making things happen. It is a delicate balancing act between maintaining work-life balance while promoting faster decision-making which is best achieved face to face rather than over text messaging.

Putting the hybrid model into practice requires strategic oversight, a bias to action, technology to make it happen and a continuous improvement mindset.

Progressive companies, such as KPMG, are embracing such a culture of change. Rather than enforce a rigid pattern of working they are empowering their staff to design their own working weeks.

This trend is further borne out by research from the BBC with 43 of the UK’s 50 biggest employers embracing flexibility.

The KPMG approach exemplifies a sea-change we are seeing with a number of our clients. Organizations are repurposing their offices so they become collaborative hubs and places to learn.

Technology to make a transition

In order to make such transitions a reality, the technology needs to be put in place to manage and maintain a seemingly effortless change.

The key factors in managing a successful hybrid working model include:

  • Meeting space utilization
  • Enabling collaborative working
  • Hot desking provision
  • Safety of staff and visitors
  • Creating a great employee experience
  • Data-driven decisions

Let’s explore how technology helps to manage and optimize these key factors:

Meeting space utilization – with fewer people going to the office, many companies have already taken the decision to cut their footprint and to not renew existing leases.

For those occupiers remaining, solutions need to be put in place, such as meeting room booking software, that enable them to fully realise their existing space. With a meeting room booking system in place, organizations sow the seeds of easily facilitating the idea of the office as a collaborative hub while features such as auto-release of room mitigate against meeting no shows.

Collaborative working – while meeting room booking software is great for getting people together for a face to face, in the new hybrid world attendees are also going to be virtual. The meeting room booking system needs to work seamlessly with the new breed of Teams and Zoom enabled rooms so that the meeting experience is as “life-like” as possible. Integration with VC start and end points ensure that meetings are hassle-free. With teams increasingly distributed across the world the meeting room booking software also enables organizers to effortlessly arrange meetings across multiple time-zones.

Hot desking – with fewer people using the office the need for a fixed desk is reduced. Desk sharing is becoming the norm. Hot desk booking software is a great way to ensure that desk estates are fully utilized while also giving staff an easy way to ensure they have a home from home when they are in the office.

Safety – this is still a prime concern for staff and visitors alike. Visitor management software enables organizations to provide an easy mechanism for ensuring the optimum flow through the building, manages Covid questionnaires and collects data for track and trace. Integration with the meeting room booking software ensures that if a visitor or staff member is unable to make the meeting the room is auto-released.

Employee experience – as part of the drive to encourage staff to use the office, the software needs to be mobile and easy to use. Booking rooms and desks from a mobile device is the most intuitive and fast way for an agile worker to manage their time. Innovations such as floorplan booking make it easier and, with social distancing built in, creating a feeling of safety before they even enter the office.

When they visit the office, check in and out is easy using QR codes or RFID or even clicking a link on an email – all convenient and all touch-free.

Data-driven decisions – as KPMG have found, listening to staff is one way to drive continuous improvement. Analysing your space utilization is another great way to empower decision-making.

Triangulating data from various sources such as the meeting room booking software, occupancy sensors, visitor management software and desk booking software provides a true view of how the space is being used. Armed with this data you can make impactful decisions such as to reduce your overall footprint or redeploy under-utilized meeting rooms as huddle spaces or hot desks.

Conclusion

The workplace is changing to accommodate a variety of different organizational and staff needs. Flexibility is key to this change – enabling staff to work at home for well-being while tempering this with the organizational need for face to face office collaboration that is vital for ideation and decision-making.

Technology is critical to connect the use of the various disparate areas such as meeting rooms and hot desks and the virtual realm of video conferencing so that staff can enjoy a frictionless work from anywhere experience.

We have created a number of useful resources which address this exciting new way of working including a recent podcast and a dedicated return to work microsite.