Transitions in the working landscape have occurred throughout history but they usually happen over the course of many years. The pandemic of 2020 has forced businesses across the world to transform their entire workplace models within only a few months. Most workplaces have adapted to these changes well and recognise that the future of work will look different.
Decades worth of change has happened almost overnight as a large proportion of our workforce moved out of the office and began working from home. Now, months later, we face questions about our imminent return.How we manage this return as business leaders, employees and commercial tenants will certainly impact the future working landscape. In Melbourne we remain under tight restrictions. This is the opportune time to re-think certain aspects of our workplace, particularly those that will need to change upon our return.
1. How And Where Do My People Work Best?
For most commercial tenants, the return to the office will not be black and white. Will working from home be a sustainable long term option for your staff ? Perhaps certain individuals or teams will be more suited to a traditional office environment, whereas others may work more productively from a remote location. Here, staff engagement plays a crucial role. Listen to your people and evaluate how they have responded to the changing workplace conditions.
2. How Flexible Is My Lease?
Good faith and co-operation between tenants and landlords has been a consistent message in the Government’s pandemic policy regarding real estate. Moving forward, tenants will be searching for more flexibility in their lease and landlords will need to keep their buildings occupied. Rather than holding on to outdated leasing models, landlords will need to be creative in how they offer their space as more tenants will seek to re-negotiate their lease terms, sublease their space or find alternative ways of working.
3. What Are The New Areas Of Efficiency In Our Workplace And What Is Outdated?
Now is the perfect time to assess those workplace elements that contribute to efficiency and those that impede it. Embracing change is about letting go of the legacy practices that hold us back. We may not need to abolish the office altogether, but time away from it makes it easier to identify those aspects we cannot function without. Do we need large meeting rooms if most of our meetings will now take place online? Has a virtual workplace kickstarted our move into a paperless system? Which aspects of our work can rely on technology, and which ones are furthered by the physical space itself?
4. Are We Still Linking Presence To Productivity?
The 9-5 work model has been a staple of contemporary workplace culture for decades. With such a rapid shift to remote working, this model, and others like it are being challenged and in the case of some companies, abolished. With greater flexibility from both landlords and workplace structures, the connection between place and productivity is becoming more blurred. Productivity is now a measure of connection and output, not physical presence in the office.. In the aftermath of the pandemic, expectations will dramatically shift, from the quality of the office, to the quality of the connection, collaboration and state of mind of the workers themselves.
5. What Will Our Real Estate Costs Look Like In The Future
This one is difficult to determine right now as the market remains uncertain. The economic impact of COVID restrictions will be far reaching and will last for years to come. Right now, tenants are looking for ways to reduce their occupancy costs and are finding new, creative ways to do so. Those tenants whose lease is set to expire in the next 6 months are facing a range of options, from packing up their office altogether, to finding shorter, more flexible leasing alternatives. In the long term, it’s fair to assume that real estate costs won’t be as high for companies as they once were.
When we come out of this there won’t be a handbook on “The new workplace for everyone” waiting for us. Before COVID our working landscape was already complex, with intertwining issues of talent retention, commercial leasing, wellbeing, technology and cultural change forcing business leaders to think differently. The impact of the pandemic has added new layers of complexity and every business will need to carve out a plan for its own work 2.0.
Engaging the right mix of people to help you answer the 5 questions above will be key to your success in re-building your workplace. Before those office doors re-open, before we need to deal with the mental and physical impact of the return on our staff, we should use this time to find answers.
BRM would love to hear from you! If you wish to discuss your current situation with one of our property or design experts, please contact us.
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