The typical office environment has remained basically unchanged for decades — until now. As a result of the cataclysmic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the office environment of the future will now undergo a series of drastic changes. Many are guessing what those changes will entail, but nothing is guaranteed. What is certain is that some form of hybrid office structure will become the new normal.
Prior to the pandemic, some companies allowed employees to work remotely. Now, an increasing number of companies have found numerous benefits in remote work arrangements, and many plan to keep this form of teleworking in place. Remote tools have allowed work to continue during the health crisis, but they cannot replace human interaction to solve problems, develop relationships, perform training, and create ideas.
What will this hybrid office structure look like moving forward? We believe it will combine the traditional office environment with the remote workforce. Accordingly, companies will face some of the challenges below.
Training New Employees
With a hybrid workforce that is partly on-site and partly off-site, organization will be key. Companies must ensure that their internal processes, such as project-sharing and collaboration, are well documented, shared, and kept up-to-date. This will also include training all employees on how to use equipment, software, email, and other tools.
Moreover, setting up employee email accounts and other necessary logins ahead of time will be a key factor in onboarding new remote employees smoothly. This will also facilitate making introductions via video conferencing. Do this as an integral part of onboarding, and encourage frequent digital engagement.
Providing and training employees on how to use video and other digital engagement tools will foment relationship-building and effective collaboration for the future. These factors are integral to your company’s success with a hybrid office structure.
Mix of Remote and On-site Staff
Some experimentation will be necessary to work effectively with on-site and remote workers, but some face-to-face meetings in the office will still be necessary. Some collaboration initiatives will demand such meetings, as well as relationship-building practices and activities. Of course, you will want to consider this only after health threats are reduced and official restrictions are relaxed.
In fact, in some environments, those working from home may become the most productive aspect of your operations. A May 2020 article published in The Atlantic points out that, “What might emerge is a future in which results-oriented introverts prevail while those who thrive on face-to-face interactions and office politics fumble.”
COVID-19 has resulted in nearly two-thirds of Americans working remotely, forevermore proving that quite a bit of work can get done from home, even when children are at home from school. And, with the ruling from The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that allows employers to test employees for COVID-19 before allowing them to return to work, remaining at home to work is an even more attractive option.
New Office Layouts
With companies downsizing and reducing space requirements in efforts to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, the standard office cubicle or rows of private offices may well be a thing of the past. Many companies were already discovering that rows of offices or cubicles were a waste of precious real estate, and not very conducive to worker collaboration and cooperation.
In light of the new focus on health and social distancing measures, the new office layout will likely be an open floor plan with widely-placed workstations and planned meeting spaces for small groups. With some planning, workstations can be positioned to steer a worker’s breath away from other employees.
Workers that return to the office want to feel safe. Employers need to ensure that sufficient space is available between workers as a part of their reopening plan. This may warrant increasing space or even remodeling existing space to accommodate these health concerns. Employers will also need to keep in mind the accessibility of personal protective equipment for employees as well as implementing guidelines for regularly scheduled sanitized work areas throughout the day.
Technology Stack Changes and Accelerated Digital Transformation
For sure, companies will need to accelerate their digital transformation efforts and adapt to the changing needs of a hybrid office structure. Technology is the tether by which companies will link together the on-site and off-site elements of their workforce. Therefore, they will need to ensure that workers have access to the most up-to-date technology and tools.
In addition, this also means developing plans for IT best practices that protect workers and the company. This must include cleaning and sanitization protocols, including a daily regimen carried out by workers and a periodic professional sanitization by a professional service. Some guidelines for socialization, separation, and protective measures will also be needed.
With a workforce spread off-site and on-site, increased IT security protocols are an absolute must, with retraining on email use, password protections, increased vigilance, and other security enhancements.
MHO is here to provide the latest and fastest Internet and Ethernet solutions for your business needs. If high-speed, low latency, great security, and fast solutions are what you need, MHO can deliver to help you prepare for hybrid office operations. Call 877-WANT-MHO or send a message online to inquire about our business Internet and networking services.
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