What will the post COVID-19 office look like?

 

It is a hugely compelling question, given the global human experiment of lock-down and work from home that we are experiencing.

We know that biosecurity, and social distancing, and sanitisation will play a large role in the practical application, but what about people and how we work and interact? How will this change?

It would be tempting to talk of an accelerated transition to 24-hour offices, of workforces working remotely, either at home or from suburban hubs, and of open collaboration zones that replace tightly clustered desks.

But in reality, and even despite my 15 years as a workplace specialist, when I attempt to answer this question honestly, I am bound to say, “I don’t know, it depends on each situation”.

It is not because I do not have opinions, and many of them at that, but without knowing who I am answering on behalf of it would be like a doctor prescribing without first carrying out an effective diagnosis.

Through my own reading, I have observed that many future-of-work commentators offer quite broad-brushed perspectives of the post COVID-19 changes. While I enjoy engaging in their reimagination of work ideas, the comments are often constrained to intelligent opinion alone, and offer little in the way of guiding principles for how we can practically and sustainably prepare for unavoidable change.

Guiding principle

For me, the guiding principle by which I drive my business begins, as with any good doctor, with a diagnosis. This diagnosis is personal, and individual, and it starts with a simple question posed to the right person. And it is this:

What do you do, and how do you like to work to drive performance? Simple, but that is how it starts.

If we consider what took place earlier this year, two clear and distinct views have emerged for the work-from-home experience.

We have proven that we can work perfectly well at home, even better in some instances, and I want to have the opportunity to continue working like this when the office opens up again.

This work from home period has been really difficult. It is impossible to work effectively with all the distractions and the expectation of “always-working”. Can I get back to normal please?

Given the discrepancy between these two views, what is really going on?

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