Nabil Sabet explores why the future workplace will value working from home as much as working from the corporate office.
Over the past century, corporate office space has become a staple of the business world. While workplace design trends have evolved, and some businesses have flirted with remote working, the concept of a central location where employees come to work every day remains the standard.
Like many others, I truly believe that the physical workplace will always have a critical influence on company culture, brand identity, team building, face to face collaboration and more. However, it can’t be denied that COVID-19, which has thrown almost all non-essential businesses into working remotely, has revealed that the future of work will be a dual frontier – one where working from home is as accepted and as valued as working from the corporate office.
An abrupt transition to remote working
Over the past weeks, companies have found themselves needing to pivot quickly and dramatically from working in a physical workplace to a remote setting. Some organisations handled the transition smoothly, while others not so much. I’ve come across both types of businesses.
The first is a creative firm with designers, programmers, and project managers. After a redesign of their office, flexibility for remote working was integrated into their workflow. File sharing was cloud-based, laptops were prevalent, and most staff had unassigned seating. Remote work functionalities weren’t a perk or a back-up plan. They were an integral part of the firm’s culture, so when the pandemic hit, employees closed their laptops, went home, and were back online an hour later.
The second company has a similar business offering, but the transition to remote working was much more challenging. Employees were heavily reliant on their physical workspace, desktop computers, and local IT infrastructure.
When they went remote because of COVID-19, they didn’t have access to the files and equipment they needed. Communication and collaboration proved difficult because many of the employees lacked the skills to manage remote working tools and work processes. Consequently, productivity and work product suffered.
Preparing for the dual frontier
If the travails of the second business sound familiar, you’re not alone. Business leaders who have been reluctant in the past to embrace remote working must consider the following as they prepare for a post-pandemic world:
Over the next few weeks, I will be writing a series of articles that dive into more detail about the above considerations. These will include insights from my conversations with clients and my firm’s own experiences in Asia, where companies are starting to return to the office and grapple with the realities of the dual frontier.
Nabil Sabet is Group Director at M Moser Associates, leading North America.
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