Business leader Carlene Jackson spells out what the office will look like post-pandemic. There’s no going back, she says – get ready for the new normal.
Things are never going to go back to normal, life and work has permanently changed. The economy has been altered and, even more importantly, we are now all thinking very differently. We’ve had time to reassess our lives and our work. In truth, our working practices have long been due a thorough review. The crisis has accelerated that review and is similarly advancing many themes that have been around for some time. Get ready for the post-corona workplace.
1 Optimised homes
The first thing to know about the post-corona workplace is a lot of people won’t be visiting it anywhere near as often and instead will be working remotely. Remote working has been around for a long time but is now regarded as essential. There are a lot of bonuses to ditching the office; less commuting, fewer distractions, a reduction in office politics and a focus on genuine metrics. Employers need to start thinking about optimising the homes of their employees. Your home based staff will surely need office furniture, mobile devices and good quality broadband. My advice is to start that conversation now.
2 Creative zones
The post-corona workplace will be a place for meetings and will be less focused on the day-to-day of work. Build creative zones that are comfortable, have good acoustics and lend themselves well to collaboration. I like walls you can write on and low coffee tables. But, once again, it’s time to start the conversation with your staff and key stakeholders. Also, think about capacity. Make it your goal to never again say the words: “I can’t find a meeting room!”
However, companies will still need places for staff who can’t work from home. Hot desking will be normal as we won’t be fixed to a station. But if employees are popping in and out then staff might well need lockers for personal effects and work items.
3 Cloud is king
If you’re wondering about space then throw out your filing cabinets as paperwork will be cut as we move everything into the cloud. Many businesses are already cloud-based and those are the ones who have fared well in this crisis. Those who weren’t have struggled, or are rapidly scrambling to get into the cloud. The battle is over: cloud is king.
4 More chat, less email
We’ve seen a big decrease in internal emails and a major rise in online chat. Chat-based channels make more sense if you’re working collaboratively, or just want to keep in touch with your team. We are seeing one another less but it’s good to chat. Cloud9 runs a virtual water cooler from 8am – 8pm so people can virtually bump into one another when they are taking a break.
5 Video stars
If there was ever any reticence about using video calls, that, too, has been completely eroded by the coronavirus. I’ve been conducting job interviews and onboarding this way, not to mention conducting client calls and much else. Coronavirus has made us all video stars.
But the video conference is a new art form and one that we are all learning how to do. Getting the right mix of software and hardware is key. I’m a fan of Microsoft Teams as it gives the functionality we need and is a dependable and easy-to-use system. Good microphones are also a worthwhile investment. Finally, there is the decision of where to host your video call. Book cases are not mandatory. We’ve been having some fun with virtual backgrounds – I think we might see more of that.
6 Changing our clocks
Greater levels of remote working leads us to consider how we are managing our time. If we are freed from the constraints of the office then why not also the restrictions of the 9-5? Some people, particularly in the software development industry, enjoy working at night. Some are early risers and, yes, some people do prefer the 9-5.
It’s worth having a good conversation about productivity and working patterns with your team. Team members need time when they can work alone. Businesses need people to work collaboratively. Clients need face-time and we all need at least some support and interaction. How and when this is best done takes some thought and is a good test of a leader.
7 Focusing on wellbeing and diversity
If there’s one big rethink I’d really welcome it’s how we treat and think about people in the post-corona workplace. Staff need to be able to develop as people, not just employees. They need time for recreation, exercise and wellbeing.
The 21st century has already thrown some major crises in our direction and there may well be more to come. Society is rapidly changing, technology is advancing, we aren’t going to return to the way things once were. We are going to need more problem solvers, more people who think differently. I hope the workplace of the future will include greater neurodiversity more businesses will embrace the contributions of dyslexics, as well as those with aspergers, autism and Down’s syndrome.
Freed from the constraints of an old-fashioned workplace that runs from 9-5, we can take this opportunity to rethink everything about how our businesses are run. This is a golden opportunity – take it.
About the author
Carlene Jackson is the CEO of Brighton-based tech company Cloud9 Insight, a Microsoft Gold Partner which has provided more than 700 UK businesses with cloud-based CRM software systems. Founded in 2010, the company has 30 staff and is also an award winning provider of training and apprenticeships programmes which it runs through its sister company Vantage Academy.
Carlene established her first business in Brighton aged 17 and then spent nearly two decades in the software industry working for companies including IBM, Xansa, and Sage before going it alone to take advantage of the booming cloud technology sector.
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