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The lessons we have learned during lockdown will help us all grow and improve our businesses. With almost 12 months of working from home under our belts (yes, it really is almost 12 months), the benefits we’ve all experienced have included flexibility, time with family and reduced commuting. But, with an end in sight with a falling R rate and a vaccine rollout, what lockdown lessons can we take with us as we move from virtual working back to a physical office?
Firstly, it is important to recognise it is unlikely we will ever go back to working life as it was. Too much has changed, and we have all changed. However, this change is not without reward. If businesses can capitalise on the opportunity to bring their offices into the future, workplaces will become better than ever – adaptable, resilient, and inclusive.
Most businesses are likely to be looking at a hybrid way of working with the best of both worlds: structure and sociability, and independence and flexibility.
But what does this look like?
Well, one size won’t fit all but flexibility will be something a lot of companies will want to continue with. This will allow companies more freedom around when they work, as well as where they work. Rigid and formal working structures certainly look like they are going to be a thing of the past.
Did you find adopting flexibility within your organisation during lockdown granted more autonomy to your employees? Giving them time to fit their work around their lives, rather than structuring their personal lives around weekday hours logged in the office?
If this is the case, we would suggest retaining this ethos of autonomy and giving your teams the freedom to continue this.
To make this manageable, we would suggest designating certain days for in-office meetings and collaboration, and remote days for individual projects and focus. Certain tasks benefit from a face-to-face presence such as team building, the start of a project, and fostering innovation and brainstorming but it is not always necessary for other work.
There are limitations to remote working as work is an inherently social activity. Is anyone going to miss hours of Zoom calls? It is impossible to facilitate remotely the array of in-person interactions we rely on when collaborating with our team members. But the post-COVID workplace will be reinvented to fulfill these hybrid needs, to take the best of both worlds.
At this crucial juncture, we have the power to change our workplaces for the better. To be adaptable, to reinvent the way we work and reshape the workplace to bring our offices into the future.
Remember, at the beginning of lockdown, how quickly everyone had to adapt to the new situation, almost at lightning speed? As we move forward, we should retain a culture of versatility and reinvention, fluidity and flexibility.
During lockdown, companies have focused more on wellbeing, and this should not be put aside now. An office environment should be a place that provides a social infrastructure to allow employees to make connections and build trust. A focus on wellbeing gives employees a renewed sense of community and develops a greater level of commitment to the company.
Organisations that retain a people-centric view of the workplace, will empower their employees to feel engaged and thrive, which in turn drives innovation and competition.
Your business should be a place where your employees can learn and grow.
So, as we move back into the physical world of work, it is clear we need to carry our lockdown lessons with us. Our chance is now, to create a work environment where we all want to be.