Post pandemic workplace options for small businesses

We can all accept that the nature of work for a large part of the workforce has been changed for good due to the affects of the global pandemic. It is still early days on how this will play out and form new permanent changes to our offices and places of work. We are still acting and reacting to the changes enforced upon us. So as business owners what are our options – right now? Below are some suggestions from the frontline.

The work place has already seen a lot change in the last 20 years as technology and the digitisation of work has made remote and mobile working accessible to almost everyone. The creative and digital businesses have pioneered the introduction of new ways of working, introducing concepts such as hot desking, quiet rooms and games for employees to revitalise tired brains and encourage collaboration and innovation.

Large scale office providers both new and old have adapted their operational models to cater for new ways of working. Most notably WeWork have created a global company and brand based on the workhub, shared space and hot desk model. Established office providers such as Regus are also offering flexible, as you need it and co working environments. Whether these businesses will ever make a profit is a topic for another conversation.

The benefits of the new flexible co working workspaces for the user are manifold. Rent a room or suite with shared reception, meeting spaces and break out areas makes much more efficient use of space. Plus you get the added level of social interaction that many of us crave right now.

The hot desk model used in many organisations allows individuals to pick a place to work for that day or moment. Just like booking a table at a restaurant, but instead purchasing time rather than food. Unsurprisingly many freelance hot desk enthusiasts choose to work from a coffee shop or cafe. In the new Covid environment this becomes a difficult aspect to manage with social distancing and cleaning regimes becoming more complex.

How does the small business owner adapt the work place?

There is conflicting anecdotal evidence regarding the popularity of working from home. Some initially enjoyed it and now miss the camaraderie of the workplace. Balancing working from home with small children can throw up challenges as can the monotonous and sometimes claustrophobic feeling of being confined to one space.

The flip sides are the time freed up by not needing to commute and the ability to fit other house hold activities around your breaks in the day. Working from home can be much less distracting than a busy office, making some tasks easier to fulfil.

Technology and the now ubiquitous Zoom, Microsoft Teams and FaceTime are hugely effective communication tools but are they affective in creating collaborative and innovative outcomes? Or more likely, do we currently have the skills to use them for this purpose? 

All of these changes are going to work their way through our working culture over time and deciding what works for your business may require some trial and error. (How this works out from a HR perspective is no doubt being considered by people more qualified than me in this respect. Advice very welcome!)

Many businesses will now have office space that is unlikely to be used to the same capacity as it was previously. When the time comes to renew the lease the goal posts will have moved considerably from the pre pandemic situation. As identified already, the flexible work space solutions are out there but these are readily available in big city locations and the options in regional towns are growing all the time.

A list of those available in Devon can be found here;

The hybrid office solution

Some see the hybrid solution as mixing full time office based staff with full time work from home. This model may work for some but there is a risk that the two will not work together affectively due to the different communication dynamics.

The alternative hybrid office model is where teams come together to share a works space for specific or regular activities. For example, Monday morning meetings, quarterly reviews and inducting new staff. One or two of the larger workspace providers are promoting this model already. Evidence also suggests that bringing staff together for regular consecutive days is particularly conducive to teamwork. Reducing the risk of unfinished tasks rolling over to another day, week or month.

In this scenario companies have an office space set aside for their exclusive use on a regular basis. Providing the opportunity for teams to come together and foster better working relationships and collaboration. Returning to remote working to complete the individual tasks of the business.

The smart hybrid office solution will allow teams to arrive ready to work in familiar and comfortable environment tailored to their needs. IT and communication tools pre loaded with the software and log ins ready to go. Coffee and refreshments all sorted and meeting rooms booked and prepared.

The potential cost savings using the hybrid office model may also allow you to work from a more prestigious location with better surrounding amenities.

In the current situation where things are far from certain it makes sense to look at solutions that provide flexibility without commitment. There are plenty of options out there and having been pushed into a world of change why not use this as an opportunity to improve the productivity, efficiency and work-life balance of your business?