The COVID-19 Pandemic has changed the rules of the game. Decades worth of instinctive and embedded behaviours requiring a daily migratory battle to commute oneself into the office are over.
Like the well-reported tale of stay at home robin populations in the US state of Illinois, who no longer bother to fly in search of the right conditions, the current ecosystems of work and Covid-19 regulations render the need for millions of workers to resume the trek to the office absolutely redundant.
The role of senior leaders’ now is to realise that efforts to convince people to return to corporate real estate, in any significant numbers, are futile. With this acceptance in place, apart from in instances where workers actively seek a corporate workplace for reasons of health, wellbeing or perceived career gain, leaders’ must set about curating and accelerating the adaptation of the new workplace.
Hence, we believe that too many organisations are currently focussed on the wrong question. The question is not “how do we facilitate peoples’ return to the office” or even “how do we decide whether or not to let people work from home for ever more?”
The question is: “How do we re-imagine the physical workplace and virtual workspace to provide optimally blended environments relative to the different characteristics of work that must be performed for success?"
There is an opportunity to build connectivity, promote collaboration and provide meaningful, inclusive work experiences for all. The physical workplace should be a place of innovation, social activity and collegiality – not rows of well-spaced desks populated by co-workers glued to their screens.
So, when making locational planning decisions, resilience strategies and workforce plans regarding the ‘return to the office’ – please remember – the world of work has changed, and there is no looking back. And let’s be honest, why would you want to put things back the way they were?