As vaccines continue to roll out and restrictions ease, the return to the office and preparing for the path forward is on every business leader’s mind. Chris Kane, the author of Where is My Office? Reimagining the Workplace for the 21st Century, joined Alistair Shepherd-Cross, Teamit’s President & Co-Founder and Candace Giesbrecht, Teamit’s Director of Talent Strategy to discuss the future of workplaces.
Chris has worked in the corporate real estate sector for over 30 years, having operated as a Partner at JLL, Vice President of International Corporate Real Estate for The Walt Disney Company and Head of Workplace at the BBC, where he was responsible for the creation of MediaCityUK.
In his book, Chris says, “The transition back to the office needs to be a people-driven agile working environment to navigate organizational change.”
What should business leaders be considering when it comes to revitalizing the workplace in the 21st century? We explore the five key takeaways discussed in the session.
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Learning #1: The pandemic has and continues to accelerate a major shift in the workplace that was already underway.
“It's now an accepted fact that business agility is no longer a luxury, it's critical for survival. But what has been ignored so far is that an alignment between workplace and purpose is a key tool in managing agility,” said Kane.
Chris used two words to describe today’s workplace: agility and resilience. "To ensure you have a productive workforce, it helps to have a productive workplace.”
He also highlighted how we are in an era of experimentation as there are no playbooks or precedents to fall back. “When the history books are written about this period of the 21st century, it will hopefully be regarded as the 21st century Renaissance.”
Alistair added how this is an opportunity for organizations to, “Embrace the change and be iterative and try different things.”
An opportunity Chris highlights is for organizations interested in equality, diversity and inclusion this opens up more opportunities for people to be treated as equal. Overall, Chris notes how we are in pandemic times for the foreseeable future and it will cause significant behaviour, attitude and/or societal change.
Learning #2: We must think of the behaviours we want to encourage in the workplace and then construct a setting that promotes and supports them.
In his book, Chris talks about space as service. "People will consume office space on a much more flexible basis,” said Kane. “The ideal portfolio going forward in the future will be a mixture of fixed commitment, flexible commitment, space on demand, space at home, but also third spaces and public spaces.”
Buying and leasing buildings are also going to look different. Chris emphasized for buildings to be attractive they need to be serviceable, operational and safe but also the most important component is thinking more about the people side of things.
"We've got to get out of this 20th century command and control mindset,” said Kane. For employers to be recognized as an employer of choice, they need to be able to offer flexible working conditions.
In turn, "Those facilities are going to have to step up to the mark to be places where people would want to go,” Kane said. For example, for an employee to consider commuting to the office a couple of days a week, it needs to be appealing and have a purpose.
Learning #3: There needs to be a holistic approach across IT, Property and HR.
Chris discusses how there needs to be a holistic approach across IT, Property and HR and how a holistic approach between the three creates a stronger and more impactful delivery system for the organization's people.
“We need to realize that everything is connected to everything else. So, whether you're leading an organization, driving public policy, designing buildings or running HR initiatives, it's all connected. And to be connected, you need to be agile,” said Kane.
Another interesting point Chris made is how we think about office work. “We need to think of office work as only working, which defines that it can be done anywhere, anyplace, anytime.”
More importantly, there is no one-size-fits-all workplace model. Every organization will be different and to come up with effective ways of developing strategies, the support systems which are real estate, technology and HR, have to work together like never before.
Learning #4: The top questions stakeholders need to be considering in the next 90 days.
There needs to be a holistic approach between key stakeholders. These key stakeholders include HR, Operations, IT, and Policy Makers. The next steps an organization takes depend on where it is in its lifecycle, leadership and culture. Chris shared three important questions these key stakeholders need to consider in the coming months.
How can we ensure that the workforce gets back to a better way of working? This may mean reopening our district offices, but safely and sustainably.
What experimental programs do we need to devise for the organization that will give us a chance to look at how we develop a resilient and sustainable organization over the next couple of years?
What are the current challenges we’re facing?
Learning #5: The ability to work for anyone anywhere will impact talent retention and attraction for organizations that do not adapt to change.
The war for talent is hot and to attract and retain talent employers need to change their work practices and policies. “We are living in a period of ubiquitous choice,” says Kane. "Employees now realize that they have choice. And they're making life choices rather than career choices.”
He continues to say that, “People are now reporting that pay and reward is no longer the number one requirement for employees of all ages. People are now making life balance decisions that they never thought they could.” Spending time with family, friends and doing the things that mean the most to them are coming to the forefront.
Alistair also noted the shift in power between the employer and employee. "There has been a major shift in power in the last 16 months between the employer and the employee in that the employee has infinitely more influence and power than they've ever had.”
So, what does the future hold? Chris shared his outlook.
“You're going to see an emergence of a concept of stakeholder value. You're also going to see a lot of talk about the age of humans, not the fourth or the fifth industrial age are the new digital age, but about getting back to things which are important, which are human beings, which is how we treat our fellow people on this planet.”
Have questions or looking for more insights? You can watch the one-hour webinar on-demand.
Interested in purchasing Chris’s book, Where is My Office?, visit whereismyoffice.com.