The Post-Pandemic Workplace

I came across this article, “5 Models for the Post-Pandemic Workplace” by Daniel Davis at the Harvard Business Review (HBR) website the other day and read it with great interest. This is a topic that Paul and I frequently touch on in our podcast “The Busyness Paradox.” There are some key takeaways that are worth mentioning, especially since they echo many of the things mentioned in the podcast. In fact, in our podcast episode Couch or Cubicle? we discuss much of the same content as here.

Part of this will be driven by the type of workers you have. For example, it has been found that knowledge workers have not lost a step in the transition to working from home and, in fact, are more productive. However, there are many companies and organizations out there trying to push a narrative to go back to the way things used to be, such as what we discussed in our podcast episode Shady Statistics and the Status Quo. This brings me back to the HBR article that I used at the onset of this post. There are 5 models Dr. Davis proposes for the future workplace. The back to the office as if nothing has changed, or as Dr. Davis refers to it as “as it was” is one of the options.

The next 4 are what really interest me, however. After “as it was,” Dr. Davis terms this type as the “Clubhouse,” which he defines as being a hybrid form that has employees coming to the office when collaboration is necessary, but go home to focus on work. In essence, the office becomes a social hub. The next category is “activity-based working.” This model has the employees going to the office, but there are no assigned desks. This is similar to the ‘hot desk’ workplace that HSBC is implementing and that we describe in our podcast episode Show Crap Jobs Some Love. This works, essentially, by an organization having fewer desks than employees. However, because people may be working from home some days (due to hybrid work) or they may be on the road for sales or meetings, etc. people will go to the office when needed, but not regularly.

The next modality Dr. Davis terms the “hub and spoke,” which evokes the airline industry in both name and process. Instead of having to travel to the main office that may require a chaotic commute for many, there are smaller, satellite offices closer to where the employees live throughout. With places like WeWork or eSpaces out there for office space rental (as discussed in a Busy-Bite on the need for office space), this can be a cost effective way for organizations to implement something like that model. Additionally, as Dr. Davis mentions, it helps reduce commute times, but still offers the face-to-face option. The last model is termed “fully virtual.” This allows companies to get rid of leases than can get expensive, help employees avoid the commute, etc.

Given that the world is changing, I simply cannot recommend going with the first option, “as it was.” Unless there is sufficient reasoning to require all your employees to be back in the office, then managers should really look hard at the other 4 options proposed. There is going to be some model that will provide the flexibility that some employees crave and allow those who need to be around others to also benefit. As we mention in our podcast, in the classrooms, on the podcast, and to whomever is willing to listen to us, the biggest hurdle will be ensuring that managers are appropriately trained to deal with having employees who are in office, hybrid working, and working remotely. The important issue is to make sure that biases do not play a role in evaluations and promotions and that the focus is on the job to be done and output.

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