We thought it was worth taking a moment, at just over half a year into the COVID-19 crisis, as to what we are seeing, and predicting, in the market, and enlisted the insights of Mike Pilcher, our Chief Sales Officer, for this article.
First, he looked at the questions we are regularly being asked around a safe return to work and more; finding the questions to be similar; because unlike other changes we have seen, all people are being affected in the same way.
COVID-19 is the catalyst that accelerated the underlying digitization of the workplace that has been happening for the last 5+ years.
So what are some of the questions we’re all asking?
- How do we get back into the workplace safely?
- When do we get back into the workplace safely?
- What can we do to help the employees not have to use public transport? Should we lay on a bus service, should they drive in?
- When this is all over how many of our team will work remotely and how often, what does this mean to us?
- How many people will we have in the office on a Monday?
- What if everyone chooses Friday to work from home – what does that do to our office?
- Will some people, like new employees, need to be in the office every day?
- Will we reduce our office space or will we reconfigure our space?
- When we reconfigure our space, what does that mean, what do we need to do?
The concept of A/B teams died very quickly in everything other than the smallest companies as they realized that collaboration across teams is ineffective if they are never in the office at the same time.
As far as office desks and meeting rooms, we are seeing people wanting to know how to manage the flows of people into the office, and are concerned about contact tracing in the event there are any outbreaks.
We have come across some unexpected use cases. One customer booking spaces in employee transport buses, not wanting employees to use public transport, they lay on dedicated transport for those that would otherwise use public transport. As there are variances in who needs this on any given day, they need to be able to book spaces on the bus, which in turn means they know how many buses they need – they want the booking of the bus tied to the booking of the desks and rooms, because they want confirmation that they are a) only booking buses when people are confirmed in the office, b) want to track who is using the transport.
We have another customer using us to schedule hazmat suits – that was unexpected. Similar to the bus, we have customers who have executives who may have had dedicated parking, they are not coming into the office every day, and want to open up their spaces to employees who don’t want to use public transport, so use Condeco to schedule these spaces.
They are using functionality we used to use for ordering coffee and water in meetings to replenish PPE and sensitization stations.
We have customers using us to schedule pick-ups and deliveries to the office as they have got used to more online shopping and need to be able to pick deliveries up from the office. Short-term, they have gone far beyond rooms and desks.
The last 2 months we’ve seen people thinking beyond getting back into the office and what this will mean in 2021-2023 and beyond.
The average reduction in space we are hearing is 30%.
If there is a consistent drive for this, we would say it is because no-one sees an overall impact of less than a person working remotely less than one say a week and 2 days is common. That’s why I think we hear the mid-point of 30%.
We have one customer who has already managed to shed 1M square feet of space, others who are cancelling plans for moves, others are mothballing space because if they can’t get out of the lease, they can at least avoid the running costs.
As far as the dynamics of who went back into the office in the medium term, our first thoughts were this would be driven by job function. What we are seeing now is that it is more complex and they want to look at dynamics such as how long has the person been with the company, an experienced person who has just joined may be required to be in the office regularly for the first 12 months.
How experienced are they? They may have been in with the company for a few years but are still early in their career and so may need to be in the office. They may be working on a project that requires team collaboration and so for a period of time need to be in the office. This would be complex enough but with reduced office space the complexity of scheduling, booking and collaboration are going to require software to deliver the people and space management.
The key word I am hearing for post-Covid we are hearing is “collaboration”. People are referring to the office as a conference center, about encouraging people to come in for team events, and looking at how they can change it from a place of work, to a place of collaboration. One of our favorite recent quotes from a customer was “the interior of the office will be defined by the furniture we put in it. They are buying team desks, planning collaboration rooms, and actively want rooms that don’t have conferencing facilities to actively encourage people to be physically in the space”. Again, they will need to be able to schedule these collaboration spaces.
As people have been affected at work but more importantly at home, as they have been affected professionally but more importantly personally, we are seeing the move toward looking at people’s well-being, their need for collaboration and socialization, and a drive to accommodate their working where they will be the most productive.
*Thank you to Mike Pilcher, Chief Sales Officer,for writing this article.