There is a lot of uncertainty about what the post-pandemic future of work will look like, there are quite opposing views with strong voices for “Keep working from home” versus also a plead for “Let’s go back to the office”. How are you going to make the strategic choices? Are they different for the various types of office operations you have? Which key factors have to be included in your considerations? Is more or less office space needed? And as a result; will your footprint and location strategy change?
Especially tech companies such as Twitter, Facebook and Google where amongst the first to announce that their employees could work remotely forever if they wanted so and if their position allowed it. More recently, large US firms like JPMorgan Chase & Co., Salesforce and PricewaterhouseCoopers announced that they are looking to unload big blocks of office space in the US as they say they need less office space if employees are also working from home even after the pandemic is over. Some companies, like for example Morgan Stanley, publicly boost that they have proven to be successful even without office space.
Does this mean that the end of the office is near and that all companies will operate in a virtual environment also on the longer term? According to Josefien Glaudemans, Partner at BCI Global it is not that simple: "There are a lot of different perspectives and positions on this topic, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. We see very different flexible working models for different types of office operations in the various regions in the world. Going forward, some companies are fully prepared to adopt a more virtual and flexible solution, while others just started thinking about the future of work."
In order to develop your own tailor made strategy for your company’s office operations, BCI Global developed 5 building blocks:
Glaudemans: "Some things are just easier done from home than others. In general, individual based work is better facilitated at home, while social interaction and collaborative activities are easier and more effective from the office. If your role is to sell to or influence others, that is much more challenging online."
A company’s future virtual strategy has a major impact on the attraction and retention of talent, as the catchment areas for labor are increasing with a more remote solution, but also at the risk of having less loyal or limited social cohesion between employees. Glaudemans: "Offering talent more choice and flexibility can be regarded an advantage in order to attract the right skills in the future. But offering employees a sense of belonging, community and company culture is also critical in order to retain them on the longer run and that is something that you can’t replace with a 100% virtual or remote solution."
So, for the future it is expected that people come to the office for a specific purpose. The workplace should fully support the social cohesion, culture and community. Also it should foster creativity and collaboration, offer more flexible use of space and more integrated services at the office. As a result, a true ecosystem of different types of work locations and different types of real estate options is expected to evolve including: the home office, the different smaller and larger corporate office but also quite some 3rd party and on demand space. Expectations for the future Based on the above 5 building blocks and their implications, BCI Global expects a combination of in the office and remote working from home for most office based employees. "For office related activities post-Covid-19, we expect at least 30% up to 60% of the work being done virtually. The country/location still plays an important role. The internal and external risk perspective of a country, not only from a cyber security perspective but also from a health perspective remains important. Also, the exposure to cyber-attacks can be a critical risk factor. Last but not least, the development level of a country plays a role: favoring WFH for the more developed countries", says Josefien Glaudemans.