When thinking about how to reopen their offices after Covid restrictions, many organizations are trying to answer the wrong questions – make sure that you ask the right ones
The Covid pandemic caused a massive disruption in the way we work. Regardless of industry, organizations had to rethink how they do business, trying to work from home as much as possible. The interesting thing is: In many sectors, it works (see for example this study) – and people would like to keep it as an option after the pandemic (see for example here).
Currently, we see organizations starting to think about the time after Covid restrictions. The discussions we see at our clients are often about: how many days should we allow people to work from home, how much do we ask them to come back to the office? And how can we manage the consequences? Especially with regards to our technical equipment, our office space and to team spirit (in that order).
These are the wrong questions.
Instead, when thinking about the time after Covid restrictions, we should ask the question: “how can we use this opportunity to improve the way we work?”
This might sound like a big question to ask when you are just trying to keep your head afloat, but this is the perfect time to start answering it.
Why now? Because work is disrupted anyway
We had to shift to working remote, which was a huge disruption. After Covid, we will have to reorganize work again, which will cost a lot of effort anyway. So why not use this moment to get out of the pandemic better than we went into it?
Because change is in the air
Everyone knows that we will restart life and work after Covid. People are longing for it. People are expecting change and looking forward to it. These are any change managers dream conditions! This is the perfect opportunity to implement change in your organization
Because people have experienced what is possible when we start experimenting
During the first lockdown in March 2020, many organizations switched to remote work within a matter of days or weeks. If you had asked anyone beforehand if that was possible, almost nobody would have said yes. But it worked. It worked, because normal rules didn’t apply, and everyone went into experimentation mode and just tried (and worked hard). Now, we all know that we can change a lot about our work, very quickly, if we have to.
Considering all this, we now have a massive opportunity to shape the future of work.
How to reboost the system? Change the way you approach change
At this point, you cannot plan too far ahead (actually, you never really can, but the dynamic development of Covid makes it obvious). So stop trying. Do not define how many days people are allowed to work from home yet. Do not plan to reduce office space by 25 percent yet. We simply do not know yet, how we can best collaborate in a hybrid world. And we will not invent it at the drawing table.
Instead, use a more adaptive approach to change: As a basic principle, give your teams as much flexibility as possible in how they want to work and support them in figuring out how to make use of that freedom. Enable them to use radical, small scale experiments on a team level to iterate the way they collaborate. And encourage them to do it.
What does this mean specifically:
- Don’t over-manage the return to the office.
- Don’t start redesigning the office just now, leave that for later.
- Do make sure everyone has the right equipment and internet connection for sustainable remote work.
- Do design work contracts with flexible “work from home” policies and create guidelines (not rules!) how to use them.
- Do enable teams to to try things out and experiment – and then reflect and adapt. Use our Prototyping Work methodology for example.
- Do set up means to share working practices between teams.
- Do emphasize that things will change again (and again) as you learn together.
By doing this you will not only adapt step by step to a new hybrid work environment. You will also set up your organization to flexibly adapt to future challenges. Use this opportunity.
Reboost your organization.