• Samantha Page for Old Mutual Corporate MindSpace

What should you consider before moving back to the office (or not)?

Not only will we have to adapt to life after the pandemic, we will also have to adapt to new-look offices and workspaces. Here, three experts reveal what’s on their minds.

Leaders across industries are rethinking work environments to mitigate the threat of Covid-19. At this stage, nobody knows when, or if, workers will move back into traditional workplaces, but what’s undisputed is that things will be different when they do.

‘It is an opportunity for employers to invest in employee wellness to prompt productivity and creativity, and to make an honest assessment on their business offerings, consumers and goals,’ commented Bruno Mundela, Chief Operations Officer for AdzLok.

Before Covid-19 offices were thought to be critical to productivity, culture and talent retention, but now many managers and business owners believe that the benefits of not being bound to an office cannot be denied.

For one, they can access new pools of talent, since remote working comes with fewer physical constraints. Plus, there are the significantly reduced real-estate costs to consider and the opportunity to boost productivity and create an even stronger company culture through innovative processes.

Here’s what a few business leaders and office designers have to say about the work environment of the future.

The psychological effect of working from home

Brad Bloom, Director of 60 degrees, a contemporary recruitment business with offices in South Africa and the UK

‘How we think about work and the workplace is going to be a fascinating area to observe. We have already seen companies like Twitter and Facebook announce that their employees may work from home indefinitely.

‘There’s a unique opportunity for organisations to rethink their entire property and people strategies. What if we only ever need a small hub in any location? What if our clients accepted that we would never meet them face to face? What about a geographically aligned reward strategy that allows top talent to work in cheaper locations?

‘Covid-19 will force companies to think about how they work, but the real tipping point will be where they work.’

‘The balance is that, as yet, we don’t know the wellness implications of a full swing to remote. Anecdotal evidence suggests that being in online meetings all day makes us less productive, and while skipping traffic means we’re able to get more done, we learn less by not having personal interaction.

‘Understanding this balance by sector, and at an organisational level, will be key to optimising the post-Covid landscape.’

The role of tech in workplace design

Dorethe Swiegers, an interior designer with Trend Group, an office interior design company with offices in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Pretoria

‘User experience doesn’t only apply in an online context. Workplace optimisation and data analytics are at the forefront of understanding how companies are restructuring their real-estate assets. The concept of “smart offices” is gaining traction. User data allows businesses to streamline their operation, based on effective and measurable intelligence. As a result, design is becoming much smarter and workplaces are being restructured to prioritise mobility and agility.

‘Workers are also discovering that a comfortable, ergonomic set-up at home, or at the office, is imperative. Ergonomic design gets staff moving and limits sitting for long periods of time. Many business owners recognise the humanitarian crisis the pandemic has created and have prioritised people over employees. This approach has a mindful effect on the way in which the employee experiences work. A culture of inclusivity on a physical and psychological level is something I hope companies retain after Covid-19.’

The new, post-pandemic office layout

Michael Aldridge, CEO of Kofisi Africa, an office-space rental agency in Nairobi, Kenya, believes the ‘healthiness’ of buildings should become a major consideration in offices.

‘It’s a given that there will be fundamental changes to most work environments, but a flexible workspace solution caters for most of those changes. Rotational work reduces the number of people in an office at any one time – without having to pay for empty desk space – and still gives staff access to the office environment and facilities when they need it.

‘Open play and co-working areas will have to be redesigned to allow for physical distancing and there will be a reduction in communal areas as well as an increased demand from staff for private offices.

‘Another important consideration will be the general “healthiness” of buildings. Older buildings may struggle to keep up with the new requirements of space, ventilation, sanitation and additional hygiene measures. Covid-19 will force companies to think about how they work, but the real tipping point will be where they work. If it’s in a physical building, there will need to be critical upgrades to ensure work is productive and safe.’


Article sourced: https://www.oldmutual.co.za/mindspace/articles/vox-pop-what-should-you-consider-before-moving-back-to-the-office-(or-not)?utm_source=web%20article&utm_medium=month_end_mailer&utm_campaign=august_2020&dclid=CKvpleXcvesCFaMX0wod9d0IFg