27 JULY 2020

We know we can work from home, so what are we going to do about it?

Working from home became a necessity during the pandemic but has proven effective on a large scale. Randall Walker, Kirksey's Design Director - Interior Architecture, considers what the future might hold for remote working and how to determine your company's Work From Home Profile. 

As many of us discovered the necessity of Working From Home (WFH) during pandemic lockdowns, we also learned that WFH offers many benefits. Some of these include a more flexible lifestyle, better connection to family, the time gained from the absence of a commute, and, most importantly, the potential of a better place to perform focused work. In other words, increased productivity.
 
Many surveys of business leaders have confirmed an increase in productivity. There are now advocates of keeping some form of WFH as part of the regular work-week as we go forward post-vaccine. Such an attitude is entirely predictable because many people were not happy with the dense, noisy, sometimes chaotic open-plan environments we were perpetuating (but never perfecting). If you are one of those people, there is much to like about keeping some WFH in your weekly schedule.
 
Many workers need to be in the office most of the time, and we acknowledge them as anchored staff. But there may be a sizeable percentage of staff who will do just fine, maybe even better, with a balanced approach of some days in the office and other days at home or elsewhere. These mobile workers we classify as agile staff. 

The main WFH issue cited by remote staff is the loneliness and disconnection from colleagues created by the imposed isolation. Not just a design or management challenge, this is a new area for Human Resources specialists to develop protocols and best practices to ensure that everyone’s connection to the firm and its mission are maintained and enhanced. In the future, the office should provide the best and most compelling environment possible so that it is a magnet for creativity, collegiality, and shared purpose.
 
Some businesses already employ this formula. In particular, business consulting firms have mostly remote workforces, who often WFCO (Work From Client’s Office). For them, regular gatherings back at their main office occur once a week, and the design of the office supports these busy days. There are large, medium, and small areas for meetings, ubiquitous access to technology, an emphasis on food and dining, “Ted Talks," and places for heads-down work. Many aspects of these offices will have direct application to mainstream corporate offices post-COVID.
 
Knowing this, business leaders should use data analytics to develop a WFH profile for their organizations. Surveys are easy to deploy using electronic response platforms. Likewise, the direct input from department heads about how the work is getting done now and in the future can help derive appropriate targets for anchored and mobile staff. This data can plug into a new program of requirements and may dramatically reduce the organization's total space requirement if there is a sizeable, happy-to-do-so WFH component of the employee base.

The alternative is to continue building traditional offices that might be less efficient than before. Have you ever wandered through your own office on a typical day and wondered where everybody is? There is a significant expense in continuing old habits. New ideas might be a better use of human and natural resources, not to mention capital and operating costs.

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