The global pandemic has accelerated a shift in the way we work. This year has shown us that it is possible to easily and quickly adapt the workplace: that highly regulated businesses can remain compliant outside their headquarters, that financial trading operations can be updated to accommodate traders working remotely in flexible space solutions, and that employees don’t need to be in a traditional office in order to be productive.
Our collective experience of remote work has led companies including Twitter, Slack and Square, among others, to allow employees to work from home permanently. But working from home all the time may not be the best option for everyone. A study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) showed that 71 per cent of employers are facing difficulties with everyday remote work. One third admitted that a blanket approach to remote working poses challenges to employee productivity and company culture.
Research by Leesman reports more concerns for isolated employees. Over 10 per cent (11.8 per cent) experienced a reduction in sense of community, social interaction (10.3 per cent), knowledge transfer (10.0 per cent) and learning from others (13.0 per cent).
A physical ecosystem where teams can connect helps accelerate innovation, as we’ve seen with our members IBM and NatWest Ventures. As we look ahead, remote work will undoubtedly have a place in many of our lives. But the bulk of the workforce will need a place where they can connect both with clients and their teammates for at least some of the working week. According to a recent report by consulting company Deloitte, businesses are likely to refocus the purpose of the office towards collaboration.
Here are three new workplace models that innovative executives will be adopting.
1. Spreading out in a single location
In the time of COVID-19, professional distancing in the workplace is essential to prioritising the well-being of your employees. There are several ways to make your spaces less dense. One is by rotating the teams that physically come in. This can also help cut costs. At WeWork, this could mean using a space suitable for 100 people but providing passes to 200 employees, and having just 50 per cent in the office on any given day.
Flexible workspace solutions can help you quickly de-densify your office without the need to take on long-term commitments because of how easy it is to scale up or down in the building. Does your team need a dedicated space for a specific project? Easily expand to an additional floor within the same building and keep all of your staff under one roof without compromising on density.
2. Decentralising offices for greater choice of where to work
Commuting on public transportation to headquarters is one source of concern for employees during a pandemic. One solution is to distribute your workforce across satellite office hubs, allowing them to safely and easily commute by foot or on bike. We discussed this with Ronen Journo, a property practitioner at WeWork, who recently spoke to some of the world’s largest corporations for over 120 hours’ worth of conversations.
‘Companies are seeking a distributed network of third spaces that are local, to support people who can’t work from home but aren’t yet ready to use public transportation,’ says Journo.
According to one study, 96 per cent of residents in Manhattan live within a 15-minute walk or bike ride to a WeWork location. When businesses provide employees with the option of working in hubs across a city where they can walk to or cycle to, it cuts down on commuting times and automobile emissions. This supports the United Nations sustainable development goals and helps make cities more human, resilient and sustainable.
3. Providing both work from home and near home options
If you’re downsizing your traditional office space and offering employees the option to work from home, there’s another way you can ensure their productivity while keeping costs low. Empower employees to decide where and when they work best by providing an option to work either from their home or near their home. Trusting employees to make the choice of where and when works best for them is a cultural shift for many companies.
From Brooklyn, New York, to Birmingham, England, WeWork locations are available across global business hubs. Giving employees access to a WeWork space allows them to utilise a private office close to home.
‘The privacy and amenities of an office are invaluable to many. But travelling to the main office every day may not be the right option for every individual,’ says Journo. WeWork private offices can be set up as focus areas for individuals, where and when they need it, as they balance work and home life.
As the world adapts to life during a pandemic, there are certain steps businesses can take now to prioritise the well-being and productivity of employees, as well as to make sure that they’re using their workspaces efficiently. Flexible workspace solutions can help business leaders navigate unexpected scenarios – from scaling up, down, de-densifying or decentralising. Provide the opportunity for employees to work from wherever will best benefit them – and your bottom line.
If you’d like to learn more about how you can incorporate flexibility into your workplace strategy, connect with us today or read more on how you can make the future of work flexible for your business.
Ronen Journo is senior vice president of enterprise and workplace at WeWork, with experience enabling business transformation, enhancing the workplace experience and leading global and regional organisations. He is executive sponsor to the world’s largest corporations and public sector bodies at both the regional and global levels. Journo has led multiple multidisciplinary teams to develop solutions for core business fundamental objectives using the SpaceAAService platform. Previously, he led the urban We campus concept for WeWork in London and launched the Powered By We business in that region.
Laura Greenfield is campaign strategy manager and former content marketing manager for EMEA at WeWork. Greenfield is passionate about building brands and driving business growth. Prior to WeWork, Greenfield worked at Deloitte and has experience working for brands across professional services, retail and automotive industries.