Published On January 21, 2021I desperately want to go into the workplace just to feel part of something. I miss that sense of connection and community. At the same time, the purpose of the workplace is becoming much less structured and much more intangible. That’s what we need to plan for. Simply having an office full of workstations won’t be enough anymore.
The impact of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has been profound for corporate real estate professionals as they rethink and rapidly reconfigure their workplaces to adapt to the “new normal.” In our Mighty Guide eBook, 7 Experts on Reimagining the Workplace, we interview real estate professionals on the impact of COVID-19 on their roles and their employees’ well-being as well as how they anticipate moving forward. In this blog post, Paul Youds shares his perspective on how corporate real estate professionals must address a new set of challenges and opportunities.
How is the transition to remote work affecting you and your colleagues?
I desperately want to go into the workplace just to feel part of something. I miss that sense of connection and community. At the same time, the purpose of the workplace is becoming much less structured and much more intangible. That’s what we need to plan for. Simply having an office full of workstations won’t be enough anymore.
The workplace of the future must include workstations, but it must also have a much greater variety of spaces and places—big meeting rooms, small meeting rooms, sofas. It needs to look and feel like a business lounge where workers are free to move around, do different things at different times, and socialize to a much greater degree than before at work because their primary workspace is now probably at home.
What does the “new normal” mean for our social interactions at the workplace?
When thinking about what the new normal looks like at the workplace, it’s important to ask yourself, “What will people require?” and “What is the purpose of the space?” It used to be that you would come in on Monday morning, sit down at your desk, flip your laptop open, and start working on your emails. Those were our expectations and our assumptions. That’s not what the workplace is anymore.
If I’m going to flip my laptop open and go through email on a Monday morning, now I’m going to stay home to do that. I’m going to avoid the lengthy commute. I want to avoid potential risks that I perceive as associated with that commute. When I do go into the office, it will be to collaborate or reconnect with the organization. This means I will have a different purpose in coming into the office than I did before the pandemic and different needs once I get there, as well.
How has your organization considered employees’ changing needs during the pandemic?
A while back, we moved away from closed offices to more activity-based, open, and flexible workspaces. That was great. Our new flexible workspace enabled us to increase utilization and create vibrancy, but when the pandemic hit, I thought, “Wow, that’s a really risky environment. We need to rethink that.” Now, as workplace specialists, we’re moving away from talking strictly about the place and the space.
Our focus is now on smart work and smart working people. How will people work smartly? That question really brings together the elements of space and place with people’s needs, the culture, the human resources dimension, and obviously the digital technology piece. Those elements all need to come together to form this workplace ecosystem. You can no longer just think about an office as a physical place. There has to be a virtual place, there has to be a cultural place, and you have to consider all of those social dimensions as well. That’s really what we are thinking. It’s fundamentally going to change the way our organization is structured as well as what our workplaces look like.