The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on corporate culture was so instantaneous and radical that even as life begins going back to “normal,” those in charge of making decisions about where and how their employees work know that life in modern business will never be the same again.
Last summer, McKinsey & Company wrote an article that sought to understand both employees’ and employers’ attitudes about the role of the office on productivity, innovation and hiring. The results of their distillation of research reveals some important changes that managers must now grapple with.
Reconsidering the Role (and Size) of the Office
Post-pandemic life allows executive leadership to reconsider the role of the office in a more intentional way. Where once offices were about keeping a group of people together in one place for a set amount of hours, companies are gradually becoming aware of how they can encourage their staffs to use their time asynchronously and more productively. With greater flexibility for how teams use their time spent in an office, managers are now free to rethink how they approach office design, including:
- Whether they want to pursue long-term or more flexible leases for office space
- The role of coworking spaces or retreats for distributed workforces
- Technology investments that can lead to better videoconferencing and bridging real-world vs online meetings
The ‘people to work’ or ‘work to people’ philosophy
The McKinsey report noted that the major shift in where people work has massive implications for acquiring and retaining talent. When you aren’t recruiting for roles that are rigidly tied to a particular place, you have the potential to recruit better candidates, possibly save money, and expand the geographical area you are able to source candidates from.
Aligning Work Culture with Office Culture
9-to-5 work life is outmoded in so many ways. Since the advent of email and other digital tools, work has become increasingly asynchronous. So with this major shift in the organization of the office, managers are now tasked with asking themselves questions on how they can organize office life to best align with their goals as an organization.
WordPress, which is a fully remote organization, has always had this philosophy top of mind when designing processes: that it doesn’t want employees tied to a particular timeframe. Further, the company wants to empower employees to determine their optimal times to work, when they are most productive and sharp.
As a manager planning a return to work strategy, think about:
- What are my company’s priorities and how can I engineer office life to support them?
- What proportion of in-person vs virtual interaction is optimal for my staff?
The Role of Policy and Buy In
After more than a year of working remotely, a large contingent of workers (80% per McKinsey’s research) say that they can work effectively at home. At home work and lack of childcare has been bearing a large toll on working families, however. As you work to develop your own return to work plan, consider the following:
- Am I crafting policy that will work for workers in different life stages and parts of their careers?
- Do I have “buy-in” from my employees about these changes?
- Are there valuable gains to be made by offering flexible policies regarding work-from-home?