The New Age of the Office
Blog //29-03-2021

Guide: What a successful workspace/office might look like

by Alex Arundale, Chief People Officer, Advanced

Want to find out more about how you can safeguard your people and what a successful workplace might look like in a changing world? Read the whitepaper to discover what considerations your business needs to be taking into account for its own roadmap out of lockdown, and the steps you need to take to safeguard your people whatever your plan.

Read the whitepaper now

The Covid-19 pandemic has delivered an exciting opportunity to employers to access a vastly increased talent pool. It has showed us that remote working is not only an acceptable alternative to working in the office, but can be a highly productive strategy for business success.

HR professionals are now considering ‘people to work, or work to people’ scenarios. With the right technology in place, the physical office is no longer the only place to engage with and inspire employees, immersing them in corporate culture and providing them with the tools to work effectively and efficiently. Organisations that were already using Cloud-based business management systems and investing in other technologies that supported remote learningThe Covid-19 pandemic has presented businesses with the opportunity to completely revisit the way they use their office space and come up with creative and innovative solutions that are fit for purpose in the ‘next normal’. Much of the planning, organising and delivering of these changes will fall to the HR team. Their skills as communicators are invaluable, as by talking to employees and discovering what has and hasn’t worked well for them during the pandemic will provide useful insights for redesigning the workplace of the future.

Some organisations appear determined to return to the old ways of working as quickly as possible, with leaders including David Solomon of Goldman Sachs stating recently that remote working was “an aberration” and contrary to the bank’s culture. For many organisations the office has traditionally been the place to promote and disseminate corporate culture, where the size, location and design of the office was emblematic of what the business stood for. Being seen, gaining recognition and earning the respect of colleagues was dependent on being present in the office. For some businesses this hasn’t changed.

Many organisations though have discovered the advantages of flexible working and have seen its positive influence on productivity. Costs can be reduced too, particularly for those businesses now seeking to down-size or re-locate to less expensive locations. Our recent survey of HR professionals, conducted with HR Magazine, indicates that around 42% of businesses are considering office space reduction as a cost-saving measure. Others may decide that the money they have been spending on high-end bricks and mortar could be better invested in people instead. Around half of our survey respondees also believed that the work/life balance for employees had improved during the pandemic, an improvement associated with working from home. With some major organisations including Twitter and Microsoft announcing that remote working is now a permanent option for employees there is a clear shift towards a flexible approach supporting remote and hybrid location working and a sense that this flexibility will be important in attracting and retaining the best talent.


So how will the office look in the ‘next normal’? Open-plan spaces may give way to multiple small individual offices to keep employees physically-distanced, or provide large meeting spaces for teams who principally work from home and come in for occasional group conferences. Consideration must be given to walkways and points of potential congestion around lifts or refreshment facilities. Signage directing movement around the space and reminding employees about safe working practices will be a common sight. Washrooms, canteens and kitchens may all require a re-design to accommodate social-distancing, or be down-sized in line with the reduced daily footfall in the workplace. There will be a need to provide additional physical facilities such as hand sanitiser, disposable paper mats on desks and even additional hand-washing facilities. Ventilation and airflow have been identified as critical in helping to reduce infection rates so investment might be required here, or simpler solutions like making sure windows can be opened safely.

Hot-desking is likely to increase as several employees use the same office space on different days, alternately working from home to a greater or lesser extent. HR teams can use technology to support this, like the desk booking app in MyWorkplace. Employees can book their own desk space for the time they want to be in the office, knowing who else will be sitting near them and even who has used the desk in the preceding days. Managers can also have an input to make sure that teams can be grouped together to facilitate collaboration in a safe, socially-distanced way. The app provides an important track and trace function to the HR team, so they can quickly identify the colleagues who have been in close proximity to each other and introduce isolation measures if someone declares a positive test result.
This is one of a number of ‘self-service’ HR solutions that are now available, along with chatbots and portal-type access to day-to-day queries around holidays, sick pay and company policies. This significantly reduces the admin burden for the HR team, freeing them up for more strategic considerations around training, people strategy and the delivery of specific new safeguarding solutions. It also saves the employee time as form-filling is automated, with workflows incorporated to keep the process short and simple, allowing them to focus on productivity.

There will be specific challenges for co-working office spaces, popular with start-ups and very small businesses. Significant amounts of equipment and facilities are shared by multiple companies in these arrangements, designed to reduce outlay and running costs for small businesses. This means exposing the entire team, even just the single and two-person set-ups, to the risk of infection from employees in multiple other organisations under the same roof.
No two organisations are the same – decisions need to be made based upon the needs of the employees and the business itself. However this is an exciting time for HR to be involved in a complete re-think the office and to redesign spaces and ways of working that work for everybody.
Want to find out more about how you can safeguard your people and what a successful workplace might look like in a changing world? (HYPERLINK) Read the whitepaper to discover what considerations your business needs to be taking into account for its own roadmap out of lockdown, and the steps you need to take to safeguard your people whatever your plan.
were well-prepared when almost overnight, the pandemic changed the way we access our work. Others, stuck with premise-based systems and a culture of ‘presenteeism’ were left behind, struggling to adapt to the challenge of employees working from home without the appropriate tools to support them and enable them to perform their daily tasks.

Diversity and Inclusion is at the top of the agenda for many HR professionals, sometimes viewed only as a challenge or as a separate issue. This may be the first time for some organisations that D&I fits seamlessly into its normal recruitment processes, because this isn’t just the way we need to accommodate the D&I agenda, it’s the way we are now working with everybody at least some of the time anyway.

After months of working from home, sharing data on Cloud-based systems, following workflows and catching up in virtual meetings, we can now fully appreciate the potential of working with people who were out of reach before. People who for geographical, social or physical reasons couldn’t have been part of the old office team can now be fully integrated into it. Those living in other cities or countries; parents with young children at home; people with mobility-limiting issues, physical or otherwise; and many more. The rapid uptake of digital solutions has enabled and empowered a rich talent pool with experiences and skills that will make valuable contributions to their employers.

Want to find out more about how you can safeguard a diverse workforce in a changing world? Read the whitepaper to discover what considerations your business needs to be taking into account for its own roadmap out of lockdown, and the steps you need to take to safeguard your people whatever your plan and circumstance.

Advanced’s survey of HR professionals, with HR Magazine, demonstrated that at least half felt that employees’ work/life balance had improved during the pandemic and that more than 8 out of 10 said that employees’ expectations of their employers had changed. Organisations that can offer flexibility to employees, respecting their preference or need to work remotely, will be optimally placed to access the best talent. Furthermore, retaining that talent should be easier too. Most employees like to be associated with a forward thinking and progressive employer that values, supports and appreciates its staff. Having a great reputation for D&I bolsters that reputation and engenders greater employee engagement and loyalty.

With many employers – more than 40% in our survey – looking to downsize office space in the future, remote-working for at least part of the time in a hybrid dual-location model appears to be here to stay. The opportunities this offers to employees and particularly those impacted by D&I concerns feels truly game-changing at the moment and will have a positive influence on the gender pay gap and equity pay issues in the future. However some employees are uneasy about working from home in future, fearing that they will be out of sight and out of mind, overlooked for promotions, training and other career advancement opportunities. This concern creates an opportunity for employers and HR professionals to lead from the front, demonstrating in their own daily interactions at work the value and importance of those working remotely. If these individuals have been identified as the best available talent then it is vital that employers do not allow their own commitment to flexibility to stall, or worse, to regress as increasing number of people return to the workplace. Ultimately, it’s about the quality of work, not who is being seen to be at work. Organisations that can identify the individuals producing quality output will be the ones creating the leaders of tomorrow. Promoting D&I within the workplace is not just the right, caring and human thing to do, but it is also at last being widely recognised as a strategy that makes sound, long-term business sense.

Want to find out more about how you can safeguard a diverse workforce in a changing world? Read the whitepaper to discover what considerations your business needs to be taking into account for its own roadmap out of lockdown, and the steps you need to take to safeguard your people whatever your plan and circumstance.

Want to find out more about how you can safeguard your people and what a successful workplace might look like in a changing world? Read the whitepaper to discover what considerations your business needs to be taking into account for its own roadmap out of lockdown, and the steps you need to take to safeguard your people whatever your plan.

Read the whitepaper now

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Alex Arundale

Alex Arundale

PUBLISHED BY

Chief People Officer, Advanced

Alex joined Advanced in February 2016 with a track record in senior HR positions. She has been responsible for innovative strategies to lead the company’s talent management.

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