Rethinking the office model in the face of Covid-19

Rethinking the office model in the face of Covid-19

Firms are changing operations to ensure they survive, but how will this shape the workplace?

Elly Yates-Roberts |

Companies have always evolved their business models to adapt to challenging times, but the recent pandemic has been a catalyst for permanently changing how every industry operates. 

In the second quarter of 2020, governments worldwide imposed strict lockdowns, travel restrictions and social distancing measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19, forcing many businesses to significantly reduce or temporarily suspend their operations. Meanwhile, others had to rapidly rethink their business models and transition office-based employees into productive remote workers with the help of digital technologies including cloud-based collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams. When governments started to reduce restrictions and permit workplaces to reopen to prevent an economic downturn, companies had to re-evaluate their operational models for a second time.

Businesses certainly will not operate in the way they did before the pandemic. Millions of employees will be reluctant to return to the office full-time after experiencing the benefits of remote working, or out of safety concerns. Plus, strict social distancing measures will likely remain in place until there is a vaccine, limiting the number of employees who can be in the office at the same time. 

To remain productive and competitive, organisations will need to rethink everything from the way their workplace is designed to the traditional operational model. Perhaps companies can take inspiration from the education sector, where the traditional learning model and the concept of the classroom has been completely reimagined. Today, digital technologies make it possible for the lectures, discussions and assignments that traditionally took place in the classroom to happen virtually. Meanwhile, teachers dedicate classroom time helping students to develop higher-order thinking skills, such as collaboration, design and problem-solving.

Similarly, offices could be transformed from places where employees complete their daily tasks into collaborative spaces where they meet with colleagues to discuss the tasks, problem solve and collectively make decisions about future tasks. The office could become a place to discuss the work, not do the work. Employees would no longer be required to be in the office between 9am and 5pm from Monday to Friday; instead, they may only need to go in occasionally for scheduled meetings. 

Although it is hard to predict what the ‘next normal’ will be, it is vital for companies to adapt now if they want to survive. It will be interesting to see how the world changes. 

Simon Dudley is head of analyst relations and sales enablement for video collaboration at Logitech

This article was originally published in the Summer 2020 issue of The Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.

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