Planning for the future is naturally an important part of any business. But the ways in which the world has changed over the past couple of years has made that planning much more difficult.
Companies are now expected to be much more flexible in a variety of different areas: how they adapt to new markets, where and when their employees work, and how they use technology to achieve their goals. Making this even more difficult is that things are changing so quickly that, in terms of what the future looks like, businesses are trying to hit constantly moving targets and questions around what the return on investment will be.
This means planning for the future in an exact way is pretty much impossible, but it remains important for businesses to keep their options open and ensure they’re ready to react to whatever challenges might emerge. Those that don’t will quickly face costs – both financial and human – that may not have been foreseen and that can quickly spiral out of control:
Real estate inefficiency
At the end of 2020, Gartner found that “according to current survey responses, on average, clients expect that 57% of their workforces could work entirely remotely, and 63% could work remotely at least sometimes. ~ Gartner.
This may sound like an unqualified positive because of the agility that it delivers employers and employees alike, but it also generates consequences for businesses and their real estate.
To view the latest Gartner research, click here.
With more people working from home more of the time, the demand for office space is lower. If businesses don’t plan ahead to mitigate this, they will end up paying for hundreds or thousands of square metres of space that simply isn’t used. This not only wastes money in terms of rent, utilities and other overheads, but also represents a missed opportunity to repurpose those spaces for other means that better suit a more flexible workforce.
The employer/employee relationship has been altered fundamentally by the pandemic. Employees are increasingly concerned with the impact their work has on their overall life, and particularly on their mental health: according to TELUS International, 80% of American workers would switch jobs if the new one allowed them to prioritise their mental health better.
This puts more pressure than ever on businesses to support their employees and give them experiences that maximize their enjoyment and minimize their stress. This includes keeping in touch with them when working from home, and also ensuring that they can be as productive as possible on the days when they work from the office. Businesses struggling in this area will quickly see drops in motivation and productivity, and a rise in absenteeism.
Another hit to productivity can easily be experienced when employees find it difficult to connect with each other and collaborate. Under more flexible working models, no two days in the office will be the same, with different people working to different schedules and across different locations. The simple act of bringing together a group of people for a meeting or even an informal chat is suddenly much more difficult than it was in the past.
That’s why it’s so important for businesses to make it as easy as possible for employees to collaborate, whether in person, virtually or through a combination of the two. The most user-friendly way of achieving this is through integrating meeting room bookings, audio-visual equipment and video meeting bookings into a single platform. From this, every attendee can be invited, get all the information they need, and easily connect at the given time, so that they can start working together straight away.
All of the above points can easily come together to create a negative perception of a company, internally and externally. They can reinforce a view – rightly or wrongly – that a business is relatively inflexible compared to its competitors, doesn’t do all it can to support its employees, and is a place where it is unnecessarily difficult to be productive day-to-day.
This can quickly have major ramifications in the recruitment market as word gets around. Not only will businesses in this situation find it harder to attract the most talented candidates around, but they will also find it increasingly difficult to hold onto the best of their existing employees. The world of flexible work has made it much easier for employees to shop around and go elsewhere if they aren’t satisfied with their employer, and so planning ahead to embrace agility can be a major differentiator between organizations.