The PLACEmaking blog

Work Everywhere: How 2020 could be the year that changed the way we work forever

Author

Fintan Burke

Date

September 22, 2021

2020 may well be viewed as a watershed moment in working world history not just because of the dramatic embracing of hybrid working, but because the lockdown experience challenged so many established assumptions about what it is to live and work in this modern world.

As we emerge from the COVID disruption, traditional assumptions of how, when and where we work are being reappraised. No matter the political pressure to reoccupy those city centre office buildings, many organisations recognise this as the moment to evaluate their future needs and respond to a tidal wave of demand for workplace change. 2020 may well be viewed as a watershed moment in working world history not just because of the dramatic embracing of hybrid working, but because the lockdown experience challenged so many established assumptions about what it is to live and work in this modern world.

The digital HQ

The pandemic had the effect of bringing a new perspective on how organisations view their HQs. With many organisations reporting productivity being maintained and often enhanced despite people not being corralled in to a building everyday, then the justification for high building rents and eye watering operational running costs becomes somewhat problematic. Few leadership teams are blind to these issues, many are looking for solutions that reflect a growing demand for adaptability and flexibility.

Without the need for permanent, fixed spaces HQ’s could exist digitally rather than physically with many enterprises not needing to lease or own a building at all, clearly not great news for those that simply assumed things would go back to the pre March 2020 ‘old’ normal, Yet for those that did recognise the significance of the 2020 shift, new and different opportunities are evident.

Changing needs

From March 2020 onwards, huge numbers of people have integrated flexibility in their daily work patterns. It seems inevitable that after such a period of sustained, dramatic changes to the way we work would have an ongoing and permanent impact. Suddenly, irrespective of rank or role everyone who could was instructed to work from home and, as a consequence they all had to adapt almost overnight, rapidly embrace new technologies, methods of communications and take on levels of personal responsibility that had often had been previously denied to them.

The pandemic demonstrated that better work-life balance, less commute times, more choice about where we live and work, and more time with our families are no longer the experience for the lucky few, but instead a new status quo for the working world. It’s time that the workplaces is modernised to match this momentum.

Where we work

One result from the lockdowns is that we know we can be part of a global digital community and be physically based in our local community. At the same time working at home is not the single alternative to going to the office every day and so we’ll see growth in co-working options, especially if located within easy walking or cycling distance from home.

Going forward, we’ll be selective about physically traveling to the HQ office. The purpose and experience of going there will need to be positive with employers needing to create events that attract us, focusing on hosting networking, knowledge exchange and skills development activities. The experience from such events will need to be high quality including the invitation, the booking process, the journey, the value we get from time spent in activities once there and the post visit perception of the beneficial connections made and how they can be nurtured.

The workplace of the future may not even be a ‘place’ at all, but instead a way of working built around flexibility, digital HQ’s, locally based co-working hubs and personal spaces in the home.

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Fintan Burke
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