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The Post Pandemic Office

Sharona I Need a Wipe

Who would have thought the neurotic idiosyncrasies of Adrian Monk would have become appropriate social behavior?

If we ever invent a time machine, 2020 is a year nobody will want to visit. Then again, it may be one of the most influential years of this century. Our immediate future will be affected by the events of 2020 in ways we could never imagine before this momentous year. For office-based businesses, the accepted methods of interplay have changed forever. Virtual offices now exist in half the homes across the United States. In the words of the neurotic television detective Adrian Monk, “it’s a gift and a curse.” The gift is that snow days are a thing of the past, while face-to-face interaction and teamwork have suffered. Change is in the air!

Competitive pressures will make blended workplaces very desirable. The future of business will be a model including both virtual and physical office time. Your best employees will insist on having this type of flexibility.  And many of your clients will demand you offer a virtual platform to them as well. So yes, to remain competitive, you will probably need to design a studio into your physical workspace.

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Bringing Work Back to the Office

There is no question that the COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted how we all go to work. In a few weeks, our country went from business as usual to an unusual way of doing business.

Companies and employees had to quickly pivot, figuring out how to do their work remotely despite technological challenges, a crowded home office, and the overarching worry over the virus itself.

But now that we are approaching the other side of the pandemic, we face a pressing question: What will the workplace look like now?

The Blended Office

Do you want to hear something surprising? According to a Harris Poll cited in USA Today, 40% of Americans want to work from home, while only 25% want to return to the office full time. Another 35% would prefer some combination of home and office.

Think about that. At least 75% of Americans want to work from home at least some of the time. Many of these workers enjoyed the flexibility of working from home, are worried about getting sick returning to the office, and aren’t exactly chomping at the bit to get back to their daily office routines.

Worker demand will not be the sole driving force that determines whether or not we return fully to the office, nor should it be. Yes, we want our employees to be happy since happy employees tend to be productive ones. But happiness doesn’t drive the bottom line, and if working from home interferes with profits, then what’s best for the business needs to prioritize.

But it does mean that employers will have to work closely with their workforces to determine how to best manage this strange transition. The simple fact is that a large portion of that workforce that would instead work from home will be required to come into the office more than they might like.

To make that work, employers will have to listen to their workers to figure out how to make transitioning back to the office work for everyone.

Take childcare. For the past 15 months, many parents have had the opportunity to stay home with their children, mainly because daycares were not open. For these parents to return to the office, however, they need to figure out childcare.

Several facilities that closed during COVID have not reopened, and unfortunately many never will. And over the course of these months, some parents may have decided that they would rather stay home with their children no matter what.

As an employer, you have to ask yourself whether requiring a worker to come back to the office is worth losing that employee for good. If not, what options are you willing to entertain?

In all honesty, bringing employees back to the office is probably the right call. But employers are going to need to be more flexible than they might be expecting when it comes to holdouts who need to remain working remotely. Unfortunately, there’s no single, perfect solution for every company.