Work consists of three components: a psychological, physical and a virtual component. While in our previous blog, we addressed the psychological component, in this blog we elaborate on the importance of the physical component of work. In other words: the need of a physical location to get work done. This can be any sort of place varying from a room in the office or the home office to the coffee shop around the corner.
Work as an activity
Even though working remotely has been accepted more and more over the last couple of years, in early 2020 most employees were still commuting to the office each day. However, ‘work’ should not be confused with ‘office’, as work is not a place, it is an activity. After the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, most of us learned that there’s no need to be in the office every day to get work done. The activity we need to perform determines the place where we go or stay to do it.
Although people were not allowed to go to the office and were forced to work from home at first, they now work at home voluntarily. The home office has changed from a secondary into a primary location. Research from Gartner has shown that 41 % of employees will remain to (partly) work from home. Why indeed go back to the office if the home office (or any other location) fits just as good or even better to the activity you had planned to do? Especially if that also leads to a better work-life balance.
Ensuring a safe work environment
Since the home office has become a primary location to work and the perception of working remotely has changed, this affects how organisations should support their employees both on the short term and the long term. On the short term, organisations have to ensure that employees work comfortably at home by (financially) providing them with the right equipment, such as adjustable desks and chairs, keyboards, mice, monitors or headphones.
As employees should have the flexibility to work wherever they want, organisations also need to create a safe office environment for employees that want to come and work in the office (when allowed). This can be done by taking the right hygiene measures by for instance providing enough disinfectants throughout the building. They also need to communicate about the precautions people have to take when re-entering the building. Besides, they need to display walking routes throughout the building and indicate which workplaces may or may not be used. This can be done by means of stickers or even by digital signage. Tools to monitor the occupancy rate of your office or to monitor which technology was being used, but also to record how many people have visited the building, help to meet safety regulations as well.
Creating a pleasant and comfortable work environment
While on the short term, social distance rules still highly affect the usage of squared meters, on the long term, organisations should consider redesigning their office environment based on the Activity Based Workspaces principle. The available square meters might change in function to suit the activities that employees want to perform. Most likely, the office will have a much more social function for people to collaborate and connect. Also consider the need for creative spaces for activities such as creative thinking sessions.
In the future, offices will become even more smart due to the emergence of IoT driven tools. Processes such as booking meeting rooms or workplaces, wayfinding, cleaning of workspaces and regulating quality of light and air will be automated. More than ever before, technology will be used to create a hybrid environment in which the physical workspace is seamlessly integrated with the virtual one, so people in the office can communicate and collaborate with those working remotely.
By looking at, not only, the physical, but also the psychological and virtual component of work organisations are able to create an optimal working environment for their employees that fits the modern way of working.