New ways of working

Lockdown has forced businesses to rethink their office space requirements and how staff will work, in the long term.

Prior to the Coronavirus pandemic, most businesses had enough desks or workstations for each and every employee. The remote working revolution that has come about as a result of Covid-19 has forced businesses to rethink their premises strategy. Firms are now asking themselves whether they need desks for everyone and whether they really need so much (expensive) office space.

Throughout the last 20 years or so, offices have evolved. Workspaces have become more open plan. Not everyone is a fan of this – some people find that open plan working involves too many distractions. However, others, conversely, find the added interaction with colleagues in an open plan office inspires innovation and fosters collaboration.

Open plan offices, hot desking, and other modern premises strategies were generally designed around assumptions on the number of staff, number of desks required, and so forth. However, the work from home revolution has suggested that businesses don’t need desks, workstations, or offices for all staff.

Another consideration is new attitudes to virus transmission and social distancing. People no longer want to sit close to others.

Many firms have already responded by launching permanent work from home policies. Some firms want people to work from home for one or two days per week, while others only want to see their employees in the office one or twice a month.

Many people will celebrate this new development. No more commute, a comfortable working environment at home and a better work-life balance. That is fine for those who want to live in the countryside and who have a spare room to convert into an office or study. However, it may not work as well for those who live in small apartments, who cannot afford the luxury of a dedicated home-office.

Businesses may benefit from reduced premises costs and staff may benefit from reduced travel time and commuting costs so it can be a win-win scenario for those with a suitable remote working setup.

All of this points to the end of being expected to attend the office every day. It could mean the end of hot desking, open plan working, and the distraction of others. However, businesses need to think carefully about how to train and develop their people remotely. This will involve an investment in terms of time, effort, technology and money.

There is an opportunity for businesses to reduce premises costs but a shift in thinking will be required in order to make this effective. It seems likely that the best businesses will invest some of the savings back into their people and they are the firms that will most likely succeed in the longer term. Change is upon us and it’s time to adapt accordingly.

For Randall & Payne, my preference is to have our team under one roof for many reasons;

  • Each year we take on a number of apprentices and graduate trainees who need to be around their manager and team in order to learn and develop on the job.
  • We value the face to face contact with staff and clients alike. Being able to chat to colleagues from a well-being perspective is encouraged and doesn’t happen so easily working remotely. Having a catch up with a client over a coffee ahead of a meeting can sometimes result in a nugget of information which can impact how we can help them and their business.
  • There are benefits of being able to overhear a conversation if something similar has happened with a different client which might help to provide a solution.

I recognise that things will change and there will need to be more flexibility. Of course the next generation of remote working software may solve many of the current difficulties. However right now we are following current guidelines by working from home and I hope that some time soon we will be back under one roof again.

Tim Watkins is Managing Partner and embraces new technology and ways of working – and currently can often be found on a video call either with his team or a client.