Back to the Workplace

Back to My Healthy Happy Workplace event - held 25th March 2021

Organised by The Fifth Estate and supported by CitySwitch. 

Key speakers from Dexus were Chris Alcock and Daniel Quinn

When COVID-19 hit our shores in March 2020 we all discovered what ‘resilience’ really meant.  As a result of lockdowns and other strategies, March (and many other months) meant offices were empty and a lot of us asked “Is this the death of the office?”.   This was an important question, so Dexus did some research between April and June 2020 to find out.  They ran three surveys across a variety of sectors covering 368 organisations across 28 industries and 7,647 people responded.  This is what they found out. 

There were three key findings.

#1 We discovered that virtual working actually works.

  • Video conferencing was considered a game changer.  People took to virtual working and working remotely.  Mass adaption in a short timeframe was remarkable.
  • Only 36% considered access to hardcopy information to be important when working from home (WFH)
  • Easy transition once everyone got used to it
  • Some struggled – key determinant was pre-lockdown technology adoption.

In relation to returning to work many will be wondering, will we revert to the old ways, or is our working life going forward going to embrace new approaches and ways of working?   It seems the latter is most likely.

#2 The office is as important as ever.

The survey found that 80% of people missed being the office for a variety of different reasons.  Those reasons included:

  • Professional and social interaction
  • Building culture
  • Learning and development
  • Fostering innovation
  • Business development
  • Client interactions

But will everyone go back?  It seems that 77% expect to continue to work primarily in the office post lockdown, but many also prefer to work remotely.   Which has the workplace team rethinking office space.  If people want to be here for professional and social interaction, learning and other active engagement activities, does the current office desk, office and space set up facilitate that as best possible?  Probably not.

#3 Its clear the future is a blend of physical and virtual

Most survey respondents wanted WFH to continue as it provided more choice and flexibility.  Seventy-three pre cent want to WFH at least 1 day a week, 49% executives thought response would be lower, 24% want to WFH more than 2 days a week.

Blending the work environment seems to be the preferred way forward.  According to Dexus, the blended office has potential to deliver:

  • Improved talent attraction and retention
  • Increased flexibility
  • Reduced commuting time
  • Ability to attract, retain and support talent regardless of geographic location
  • Wellbeing benefits balancing work/life (and family) commitments

But that will bring some challenges such as:

  • Overcoming WFH inertia, concerns about COVID-19 and justifying commute
  • Providing reassurance about health and wellbeing
  • Making strategic decisions at time of continuing uncertainty
  • Understanding how to determine and implement a blended strategy in existing environment.

So organisations will need to answer:

  • How many people need to be in the office for it to be worthwhile and how can that be achieved.
  • How can we achieve consistency for remote working?
  • To what extent can the individual’s location, performance and health be monitored and self-managed?
  • How can new starters be on-boarded, settled and supported effectively?
  • How do you build and maintain a culture with a large number of remote workers?
  • How will the office manager role need to change to adapts to a blended workplace environment?

And management need to be aware that adaptation needs to work at various levels:

  • Organisation – shareholder value, recruitment, industry leadership, brand and culture, technology.
  • Business team – Leadership, team dynamics, productivity, customer experience, learning and mentoring
  • Individuals – engagement, retention, motivation, wellbeing

Getting this right will take some experimentation, but it should be done.


Making the comeback – returning to work safely and effectively

What needs to happen now and how do you transform the workplace to a place people actually want to come into?  That raises more questions such as?

  • How to avoid an empty office (i.e. staff come in but none of their team is there or the office is empty)?
  • How do you give them confidence that making the trip will be worthwhile?
  • How do you assume them that it’s safe from COVID-19?

Some ideas include:

Making sure the office is occupied – get attendance projections right (preferences, scheduling, monitoring, management), create collaborative and individual space, curate activities and connections that make it worthwhile.  That won’t be easy, but the office is a significant business investment and it needs careful planning, resources, change management, monitoring and being prepared to experiment.

Reviewing existing office environment and rethink how it works – there could be lots of opportunities to revamp and use existing space differently.  Does the workplace reflect your organisations values and culture? Does it create a place that people feel they belong in and value?   Does your technology support you the way it needs to?  Does the workplace assure health and wellbeing of people in the office?   Are you optimising the workplace experience for your people? 


In Conclusion

We now find ourselves with the unusual opportunity to make a profound and long lasting difference to organisation and people, and there is so much you can do with your existing workplace to start this journey.   

Watch the webinar to see what Dexus has done to change their workplace.  It provides an excellent example and food for thought.  There were also interesting sessions on the impact of lighting and acoustics in the office. 

You can Watch the full recording here


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CitySwitch recently supported The Fifth Estate with their Back to My Healthy Happy Workplace Masterclass and it was well worth the time. 

Dexus talked through the research they've conducted and their findings will be of interest to anyone working from a commercial office space.  This is our summary of the key points and a link to the webinar to watch it in full. 



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