If you want the office market to die, it will – but that’s not the answer

29th July 2020


US firm McKinsey Research has revealed some statistics relating to the US office market post- Covid. In simple terms the findings were:

– 80% of people questioned report that they enjoy working from home;
– 41% say that they are more productive than they had been before; and
– 28 % that they are as productive.

Liberated from commuting, office workers have found more productive ways to spend that time, enjoyed greater flexibility in balancing their personal and professional lives, and decided that they prefer to work from home rather than the office. No real surprise here.

Employers now also see things differently, with fewer location constraints they are adopting innovative processes to boost productivity, create a stronger working culture and, here’s the kicker, significantly reducing property costs.

Occupiers are questioning the long-held assumptions about how and where work should be done and the future rol  the office. Of course, there is no single solution. Property decisions will be based on which roles are most important, how much collaboration is necessary, and where offices are currently located. Tough choices will come up sooner rather than later;

Re-invention is key

During  lockdown, companies have  adapted and collaborated to ensure that the most important processes could be carried on remotely. Most just transplanted existing processes to remote work contexts, imitating what had been done before the pandemic. This worked well for some –  but not for others.

Previously, companies may have generated ideas by convening a meeting, brainstorming on a physical or digital whiteboard, and assigning someone to refine the results. A new process may include a period of asynchronous brainstorming on a digital channel and incorporating ideas from across the organization, followed by  refinement on an open videoconference.

I love this phrase ‘people to work’ or ‘work to people’.

As organisations reconstruct how they work and identify what can be done remotely, they can make decisions about which roles must be carried out in person, and to what degree. Roles can be reclassified by considering the value that remote working could deliver:

1. fully remote
2. hybrid remote
3. on site

For the roles in the first two groups, the pool of available talent could have fewer geographical constraints. People could live in the cities of their choice, which may have a lower cost of living and proximity to people and places they love, while they still work for leading organisations. A monthly trip to headquarters or a meeting with colleagues at a shared destination could be enough. This approach could be a winning proposition for both employers and employees, with profound effects on the quality of talent an organisation can access and the cost of that talent.

In the next part of this article, we’ll take a look at the office of the future, and how the boundaries between being physically in the office and out of the office must collapse if organisations are to maintain productivity, collaboration and learning to preserve the corporate culture.


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