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Returning to workplace | status quo or whole new world?

Reportedly, almost 90% of Australian organisations are encouraging or requiring employees to work from home as part of the COVID-19 restrictions. The Federal Government has confirmed that steps to reopen Australian businesses will be targeted and gradual, with social-distancing measures in place for at least six months. And organisations are confronted with the complex challenge of carefully planning the return to workplace.

The question is, will it be a return to a version of the status quo, or a catalyst for reinvention? An opportunity to re-set? To take a moment and imagine the possibilities of the future workplace?

Either way, Puzzle can help.

If organisations are simply looking to return to something akin to the pre COVID-19 world, it will be a ‘new normal’ and there are still many strategic considerations in the areas of people, place and technology, including:

  • Space modelling, planning and re-purposing to adhere to social distancing requirements

  • Workplace hygiene

  • Operating principles for shared spaces like meeting rooms, kitchens, cafeterias

  • Understanding remote working impacts on employee sentiment and wellbeing, and what lessons can be applied on return to workplace

  • Engaging leaders and teams in new ways of working, how people connect, adhere to the social-distancing guidelines, and create a sense of psychological safety. All while delivering the best organisational outcomes

  • New protocols and policies in areas like health & safety, travel, meetings Auditing technology and facilities to support a workforce which may be split across multiple offices and working from home

  • Communication – simple, clear, consistent messages which ensure people understand the return to workplace scenario, how they will be supported and what is expected from them.

But we think there is an unprecedented opportunity for organisations to take a moment and consider what they’ve learned from the “remote working experiment”. To understand employee sentiment, what’s worked, what hasn’t and how those lessons can be incorporated in the return to workplace scenario.

We can use this ‘interruption’ as a springboard to design a better employee experience. With some imagination, we can create a more dynamic, collaborative, creative, flexible and productive workforce.

COVID-19 can be a catalyst for reinvention, not repetition. This is an ideal time for organisations to reflect, imagine, innovate.

Some have suggested that the pandemic has accelerated changes that were already in train – a more flexible and technologically enabled workplace. We would go further. We believe recent events have the potential to give rise to a new frontier in workplace flexibility.

Think about it.

Hygiene fears are real. Social distancing, at least for now, a requirement. There is an aversion to crowds and public transport. People have practised working remotely. Digital confidence and capability have strengthened. But people still crave colleague connection.

Organisations have shuffled along the ‘flexibility continuum’ over the decades, moving from individual offices, to open plan, hot-desking, Activity Based Working, agile working and co-working spaces. Often hybrids of these scenarios.

We think COVID-19 has the potential to catapult us into a future workspace of unprecedented flexibility. Where people exercise true agility, working anywhere, anytime. The emergence of suburban co-working spaces, close to home, and ‘touchdown’ facilities in head offices. Convenient places to escape home when necessary, to connect with colleagues and access utilities. We call it ‘your space’.



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