The future of the workplace – building back better

30 November, 2020
the future of work building it back better i8llustration of boat and windes of change

We have spoken at length recently about the future of the workplace. It is a subject on everyone’s mind, understandably. We’ve explored why the physical workplace is essential for both wellbeing and an organisation’s core values. Moving forward, we want to look at the re-modelling of our workplaces and why this is such a great time to re-think what we have and build back better.

The future of the workplace is hybrid

Despite all the recent hype about working from home, the majority of organisations are unlikely, and unable, to adopt entirely remote working. Then again, the proven success of working from home means that there is an increasing desire amongst workforces to spend at least part of the working week away from the formal office environment. Now that the working from home genie has escaped, it isn’t going to go quietly back into its bottle. People have welcomed the extra time with family, the lack of commute and the increased productivity brought about by cutting out that dead time. So, what we need to be looking at post Covid is some sort of hybrid workplace. A solution that marries the best parts of the workplace with an element of working from home or smaller hubs and satellites.

A catalyst to reinvent the future workplace

Covid may have been a traumatic and costly experience. However, it now gives businesses an amazing opportunity. It has provided a catalyst for us to undertake the most significant reinvention of work in generations. As part of our pandemic recovery plans, we shouldn’t be trying to squeeze everything back to how it was before, often against the will of our staff. We should be thinking of this as a trigger event, allowing organisations to reimagine their workplaces and create a new experience of work. We have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to really think about the future of our workplaces and imagine something much better than it was before.

The workplace of the future should be a destination

Business leaders have often talked about making the workplace a destination. A place people want to be. This has been brought into much sharper focus during the pandemic because of the additional worries of being in a physical workplace: Do I feel safe? Do I feel that I need to be there? Is it really worth going in? We know that the workplace is more than just somewhere we go to work. It is important for our sense of belonging, our wellbeing and as a powerful representation of an organisation’s core culture and values. But when you’ve been excluded from the socialisation, the team spirit and the positive reinforcement of a workplace, the importance of these things begins to fade. To bring our staff back into the fold, we need to address their fears, their resistance and a lowering of morale.

Safe and compelling

To overcome these barriers, organisations need to make their workplaces not only safe but also compelling. Of course, safety is a fundamental need. Your workforce have to feel safe, secure and protected and know that their basic needs are being respected. Thanks to Covid, all businesses will have strict safety measures in place. The next step is to make the workplace compelling, but how? We need to re-think the purpose of the workplace. How do we make it a desired destination? What needs should it serve for our staff? Generally speaking, they need to focus, to collaborate, to learn, to socialise and even to rejuvenate. The enforced hiatus gives an amazing opportunity to really look at these needs and to prioritise differently. Until now, the office has been all about function and productivity. Now it needs to offer more – and businesses that offer a better work experience will be ones to retain and attract the best employees.

Offering choices

The idea of offering choices will be really important. How much of their work needs to be done in the office and what things can be done just as well or even better from home? These choices will be very individual. Some people can focus perfectly in the peace and quiet of a home office. Others may have too many distractions at home and will need the office environment to be able to concentrate. Workplaces that are welcoming, stimulating and make the most of new technologies for the benefit of both staff and employer will be more attractive to existing and potential employees. The workplace also needs to be a place to do the things that don’t work as well through technology – co-creative work, sharing of ideas and inspiration, socialisation. It needs to provide things that Zoom can’t.

Expectation vs experience

The future of the workplace needs to be more than skin deep, however. We’ve all been to offices where, on the surface, it looks like a great place to work. It’s really funky, bright colours, great artwork on the walls. Yet, when you start talking to people, you can tell there’s no substance. You have to have a purpose, a strategy and a workplace that are all aligned with each other. It is a complex but fascinating situation and it comes down to the relationship between expectation and experience. If the experience of the workplace is below the expectation, your staff will be very dissatisfied. You can have the most amazing space in the world but if you haven’t accounted for things like process and culture, it won’t be successful. You have to take a holistic approach, paying attention to culture, process, tools and space in order to drive people’s belief. This in turn drives their behaviours, which, in turn, will drive your results.

Where to start?

Where and how does an organisation start to take advantage of the transformational opportunities we have in front of us right now? We can’t suddenly flip into this hybrid way of working and assume that everything is fixed and everyone will be fine. It’s something we should be thinking of in our teams – management teams, leadership teams, departments within the organisation. First of all, does the business need to change? Where does it need to innovate? What does it need to reinvent? Secondly, think about your work processes. The best businesses have always been built around supporting work processes but many of these have changed, along with our priorities. How can you move forward and support your workforce better? Thirdly, think of the culture you want to build. Envision the ideal future (which may be very different from six months ago), think of where you are today, and really start to think about how you can close those gaps. How can you empower your people to help with that?

Connecting staff at every level

At Big Picture People, our bespoke visual communication tools, learning maps and games use a fun, informal format to bring workforces together. They can be used to explain new ideas, changes to working practices, and to connect people at all levels to your core values. The light-hearted concept of a game encourages the involvement of every staff member, inviting comment, ideas and valuable input. The bespoke nature of our products means that employees can see immediately how it relates to them, helping to inspire belief in the organisation’s culture.

How can a simple board game can form a powerful part of your future strategy? Book a free 30-minute consultation to find out.

This is probably the best opportunity business has had since the industrial revolution to really change the world of work. This time though, we can change it so that everyone benefits – businesses, customers and staff.


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