It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic will have lasting effects on the workplace. For many employees, the workplace isn’t even a “place” at all anymore. Quarantine, lockdowns and continuing social distancing measures have opened up the possibility of working from home indefinitely.
Regardless of a team’s ability to work from home, there will always be a need for a physical office space for collaboration, office culture and even the mental well-being of employees. As organizations look to bring workers back to the office, even on a part-time basis, the nature of the workplace model is becoming much more flexible. As such, it demands executive leadership that understands this paradigm shift and can help their company adapt to it.
WFH is here to stay
COVID-19 caused a mass exodus from the workplace. Working from home is no longer out of reach for a large sector of the workforce. As vaccination continues at a rapid pace and life starts to look a bit more “normal,” many companies aren’t going back to the standard workplace model. For those that are, there are plenty of considerations they need to account for before bringing employees back to the office.
Employers choosing to return to the physical office need prepare for some resistance. Forcing employees back to the office—even when vaccinated and with social distancing measures still in place—is likely to generate some ill will and low morale. Many organizations are exploring new workplace concepts to reduce the hesitancy of employees to return to the physical office. Flex scheduling, for example, can boost productivity by allowing employees to work outside the traditional 9-5 and choose more convenient working hours.
Not only do these new options enhance work-life balance for employees, it also frees up space in the office. Moreover, it allows organizations to conform to social distancing guidelines which aren’t expected to completely disappear once the pandemic is over.
Workplace trends on the rise beyond 2020
In the wake of the pandemic, new workplace models are on the rise. The overarching theme is that of the flexible hybrid workspace. Workers have gotten used to working fully remote, and remote work will likely remain the norm for many. In the hybrid workplace model, the decision to go into the office will be made more on a personal rather than arbitrary basis.
The hybrid workplace model has no clear-cut rules, and many organizations are experimenting with flexible scheduling including looking beyond the 9 to 5; working 3 days in the office and 2 days out; and other options. Businesses are looking to strike the right balance between collaboration and the social energy of working face-to-face with the individual needs and comfort of employees.
This has also given way to hoteling, a desking concept made popular by coworking. It’s an efficient solution for workplace utilization that also gives employees freedom of choice in where and how they work throughout the day. Hoteling and concepts like it require executive leadership that can see the big picture beyond, to more efficiently manage new facility demands.
Workplaces and their purpose are changing
As the physical workplace changes, so too are the jobs of facilities managers. Facilities managers need to respond to the flexibility required by changing workplace models. Since people don’t “depend” on an office environment like they once did, the physical workplace needs to serve a different purpose. It’s not just a place for employees to clock in. Today’s office needs to keep people accommodated to allow them to do their best work.
The rise of integrated facilities management
The job of a facilities manager is changing due to the rise of the hybrid workplace. Now, more than ever, the health of facilities and their occupants is of the utmost importance. Employees returning to the physical office, even just for one or two days a week, will need work schedules, floor plans, desking arrangements and new processes that support them. Facilities managers need to account for social distancing guidelines, sanitization and even floorplan considerations.
There’s also a move toward streamlined building management, known as integrated facilities management. This model requires someone at the helm to make critical decisions regarding how facilities are maintained, who’s responsible, and what the SLAs and other costs associated with facility upkeep look like.
Facility executives pave the future of workplaces
The dust hasn’t fully settled from COVID-19, especially when it comes to the mental barriers of returning to work in an office setting. While some employees may be starving for facetime back in the office, many others still feel reluctant to be in close quarters with others, regardless of vaccination status.
One thing that’s clear is that the effects of the pandemic will impact the workplace for years to come. Moreover, they’ll change the face of commercial facilities operations and drive demand for highly-competent and flexible facility executives. The way facility executives respond to new challenges, from flexible office hours to sanitization, will set the tone for the look, feel and operation of the office space in a post-pandemic world.