The return to work is on everyone’s minds right now.
Thousands – even millions – of businesses are having to re-think their entire approach to the office and everything that it encompasses. And this is not just from a technical perspective. This is about people, their well-being, how we interact, how we move forward – and how do we plan a better future for ourselves?
These elements are hugely significant, and the territory is unchartered. Moreover, it’s doubtful we’ll get it right first time and we’ll need to keep adjusting. In our recent report with eir Business, we found one-in-two businesses do not feel prepared for the future world of work from an ICT perspective.
So, where do we go from here?
We recently discussed the future of flexible working from a broader business standpoint.
But from communications, to security, cloud, collaboration, device management – it’s a lot to consider. And what we really need is a gradual approach that gets the priorities right at the beginning, so we can build and pave the way for continual improvement.
How to prepare your office for flexible working
For many, the starting point is about introducing normality in a safe and considered way. From looking at our investigation, 40% are looking to go back to normal and 39% are looking for a hybrid approach.
Following on from this, both of these prospects introduce businesses to a new challenge which is returning to the office in a post-pandemic world. Regulations, compliance and effective management will all be key, and a quick glance at the safety requirements from the HSA demonstrates that every office needs careful planning right down to the last detail.
Here, Evros Business Solutions Practice Director and Thought Leader in this space, Paul Gilbride, discusses the necessary steps we need to consider, to ensure we get the initial requirements in place, which we’ve detailed below.
Step one: Plan your socially distanced office
Capacity – what are your new capacities, and will these include visitors to the office?
Contingency – what if too many people want to come back to the office than your space allows – what is your backup plan and what policies will you put in place to deal with this?
Assignment strategy – whether you are planning on allowing hot desking or simply want to plan in a gradual return to the office, what will your desk assignment strategy be?
Furniture changes – who will be able to sit where and when? How will you enable teams who need to work together, to make sure they can collaborate safely?
Activity analysis – how will you measure all of these activities to ensure you can action your data at a later date for a more effective outcome?
Step two: Mapping out your office
What tools will you use – as we support our customers in the return to work, we’re helping them to map out their office so they have a virtual reference point that can be managed more easily. There are various ways of doing this and if it’s something you’re looking at doing, you can use tools such as Visio, Gliffy or even Excel.
Desk classification – once you have mapped out your office, you will then want to classify your desks so employees know which ones are available and when, to which teams.
Visible markers – another consideration to make will be how you will physically signpost available desks as well as those out of bounds for social distancing reasons.
Movement – how do people move around your office? What paths do they take (to use the rest rooms for example) where do they congregate?
Step 3: iterate and adjust as you go
Introduce a feedback loop – as mentioned above, this is unchartered territory, so feedback from employees is essential. Where are the issues, how are people finding the new process and what is the overall reaction to your business’s new approach to working life?
Analytics – these are key in all areas of the business and so being able to recognise trends and improve on them all starts with having the data in the first place.
Management – ensuring GDPR, data protection, compliance, tracking and more is proving a major headache right now, particularly for those in HR and building management. So, digitising this in an intelligent way, has major benefits, saves time and money and also reduces the potential for human error – which could be extremely detrimental when your employees’ health is at risk.
Another consideration includes the focus on getting the market back to where it needs to be. In fact, over the next 12 months, 37% are looking to cut costs and 79% want to focus on growing their revenue, which definitely needs to be prioritised for the benefit of the economy as well as for individual business development.
Mental health, burnout and inclusion were also raised as concerns within the report: “One in three of our respondents are concerned that all team members – whether remote or in office – have fair and equal access to meetings, networking, opportunities, promotions, input, and engagement.”
This means businesses are now looking at managing two different employee experiences and connecting a wide team of individuals who are operating within a variety of environments could prove a challenge.
Sustainability also came up in the report with 51% seeing reducing their carbon footprint as one of the key benefits in creating a hybrid way of working.
Finally communication and collaboration are key – many have felt the effects of isolation over the past 18 months and a renewed focus on bringing people together needs to be prioritised.
Technology for driving your business forwards
The key to all of this is actually not technology, it’s people. The decisions you make as a business will design the future of how you operate and interact, now and in the future.
But technology is the facilitator in all of this and our new, virtual office will simply not be possible without IT, as Martin Wells, Managing Director at Evros and eir Business explains:
“Before the pandemic, many in the ICT profession were not positioned to drive strategic change within their organisation. Often, ICT was viewed more as a necessary cost, than a vital business enabler and differentiator. Now those leading ICT functions are being asked to ‘add value’ to the business as a whole. COVID-19 has put ICT teams at the heart of business.”
Paul Gilbride continues: “IT teams are finally on the right side of the balance sheet. Every company is now a technology company and IT is becoming a differentiator not just an enabler. Technology that’s coming in, such as low code, such as robotic process automation, is looking to reduce the overall cost of driving successful business. This marks a major opportunity for people who are working in technology. The time for true digital innovation has arrived.”
Find out more
If you are already planning your return to work, why not explore our range of Apps for enabling a Hybrid Workplace:
All of our flexible working solutions are simple to implement and will help you make the most of your Office 365 licence.