It is coming up to the end of another year. My 38th on this planet – how did that happen! 2020 was a year we all wish to forget but I guess 2021 has been a year of uncertainty too. Mixed messaging and changing rules and let’s not forget the need to “get back to work!” At this time of year everyone looks to resolutions and predictions for the year ahead. If we specifically focus on the future of work I reflect on where I am now.
My weeks are a complete voluntary blend. I am typically spending two days in one of our offices – usually London, Leeds or Manchester. I see real benefit to this, meeting IRL with my teams and wider network. The other days I spend working from home, a local workspace cafe or at clients. I have evolved my workspace at home and have to spend a bit more time planning my work based activities – makes no sense to be in the office on a call to people at home. I keep office time to IRL meets and other collaborating activities. Time at home is more review time and calls as a team. Simple changes but working to make them happen. Clearly at the moment all this is on hold with current UK restrictions.
So what does this mean going forward for commercial real estate? Not just because of me but the wider implications of a shift in how we work. Undoubtedly there will be a reduction in office space per head – you may see office space retained but the overall team growing. We don’t all need a permanent office or desk – I mean we didn’t in 2019 let alone now. BUT we do need an office to go to I feel – we just need to use it better than we did before. The office needs to be experiential. If the HQ evolves though then there is potentially a need for more flexible workspace. A challenge I find is who do I subscribe to? Having more flexibility around this would help – only so many Costa Coffees you can spend time in during a week! Though my local workspace I use offers great customer service, wifi and food!
The rise of choice and flexibility means that people like me can really think about where we live. Where we raise our families. Is there a need to live in the City you work if you’re only travelling into the office say 2 days a week. Greater flexibility. It also opens up a wider pool of resources. If the organisaton is remote, then your talent could be sourced from other countries. Allowing a broader net to attract skilled employees. This will be a wider matter for meetings – productive travels. I look at my own relationships and believe that meeting F2F once or twice a year coupled with virtual will work. Over the last 5 years I have fostered great relationships online before meeting so it’s not to say IRL is the only way. But it has to be part of the relationship at some point otherwise we’re just shells at home without real social interaction.
People are key to an organisation. Retaining talent is key, especially in this marketplace. A new focus on how you keep the team cohesive in a multi-location world. Workplace culture has had the light shone on it so let’s make this count. Do you have the “retreat” for the team to come together? Some organisations are looking at far away remote locations to do this – almost feels like a team treat – training and development has elements where face to face is key and therefore where best to do this needs consideration. You can see scenarios of company resorts. I believe some large tech companies are already looking at this. Imagine going to a [Insert Corporate Name] Resort in Cancun? You’d really need to think about how you set that one up.
Linked to people is thinking how the views of the working generation are changing. Climate change and wider ESG is high on the agenda. Less travel and commuting is clearly better for the environment and will drive decisions around where people work. I have wondered what the knock on impact of having your heating on all day versus travelling to the office?!? The output of people is not changing but how it is achieved maybe. There is a need to adapt and change how individuals are coached and supported. The way teams learn and develop is evolving and therefore internal processes need to change to facilitate new ways. I’ve really enjoyed the blend of live virtual, in person and self service learning we have had over the last year.
So the world in which we became so accustomed to IS changing. We have to accept this – whether you are an occupier or an owner of real estate it has evolved and the implications of this are huge. The culture, the feel, the space and much more needs reconsidering now to prepare for the future of work.