The Office Concept: Let’s Get Adaptable

In my last post I discussed key questions to reflect on when preparing options for working in a COVID-19 world. As I shared previously, there is no one size fits all, rather it is a matter of understanding the different options available. In this post, I’ll explore three adaptable options and how they can fit your organisation.

Three Working Options

From the broadest perspective, there are three options for the office.

In recent months, I’ve seen plenty of announcements from organisations adopting one of these three approaches. When making the decision about which option is best for your organisation, there are several points to consider. The questions offered in my previous post can assist with determining your organisation’s optimal approach.

Working Remotely All the Time

Let’s dive a little deeper on structures with remote working options. The first option of being mostly in the office is pretty well understood. However, if your organisation decides on the second option there are some aspects of remote working to address. Employers need to consider employee health, wellbeing and safety, technology, performance management, culture, taxation, time zones, engagement, communication, and additional job-specific details.

Full-time remote work has typically been the domain of freelancers and contractors, but more organisations are exploring this as a possible option. Remote working saves money in one way but might complicate (and cost) organisations in other ways.

As an example, you can’t assume your employees will stay in the same time zone as the organisation’s office building. It’s completely possible for them to work and travel at the same time or even reside in a different country. Having well-documented policies, work processes and performance expectations can help minimise possible issues. Be prepared to adapt and don’t assume this arrangement suits everyone. For most organisations, this may be an unrealistic option – for a multitude of reasons.

The Onsite and Remote Work Hybrid

The third option of being a hybrid organisation draws on elements of both the office and remote experiences. This hybrid option can take many shapes and forms, adapting to suit different types of organisations. Here are some hybrid options that could be adopted or adapted:

The Fraction Onsite Model

This popular model requires employees to show up at the office two or three times a week. The days can be staggered across the week. For example, one day a week can be allocated where all team members are onsite, with other days determined by other factors. This option enables companies to maintain their culture and connection. Collegiality still occurs onsite where the focus is on interaction and engagement. Employees can then focus on individual tasks when working remotely with meetings held via video conferencing tools.

The Shared Space Model

This option draws on the fraction onsite model. It shrinks the office, as employees no longer need individual spaces. Instead, space is only required for employees when they work onsite. This model requires timetabling of space, as well as lockers and storage to make it work effectively. There are cost savings with this model as less office space is needed, but it can affect employee morale and engagement if not managed well.

The Co-working Office Model

This option has no permanent office. Instead, organisations book a separate space for face-to-face collaboration and connection. This draws inspiration from co-working with rent only being paid for the time required to come together. The downside is the space doesn’t belong to the organisation and may not feel as permanent. This hybrid option is more closely aligned with the remote working option. It may require employees to be more self-driven and autonomous, with managers guiding and supporting their staff rather than directly managing them.

Various Hybrid Options for Different Organisations

For some organisations, it’s easy to choose which hybrid option works best. COVID-19 has permitted organisations an opportunity to reframe their office in a way to best suit the business and its employees. There is no right or wrong, and each organisation’s context requires a unique approach. My advice is to test out various options to determine if they are suitable and will be successful long term. Take your time with testing; until a new model is implemented across the entire organisation, the full outcome may not be clear. The last year has sped up the evolution of the office. Until you decide the best approach, don’t be afraid to call it a work in progress. Merely adapt as required until your organisation finds its rhythm.

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