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Flowers from the petrol station – Don’t let your workplace become an afterthought

Posted: 17th February 2021

Birthdays, Anniversaries, Christmas. They come around regular as clockwork. Global pandemics are not signposted in advance and are thankfully not a regular occurrence. But as we’ve all experienced since March 2020, when they hit, they can have an effect that touches everyone and every walk of life.

There are numerous “problem / opportunity” motivational quotes kicking around. All the greatest thinkers in the world, from Albert Einstein to Captain Jack Sparrow, have their faces attached to such soundbites. The difference here is that we have an “opportunity / problem” scenario.

Covid-19 has flipped the world of workplace on its head, and (hopefully) consigned rows of empty desks to the dustbin of history. An opportunity has presented itself and some organisations are already ahead of the curve, surveying their own staff, getting leadership together to articulate a vision and collectively decide on how best to implement new ways of working.

The problem is that some organisations will stick their head in the sand, ride out the storm and then re-open their existing workplaces much to the consternation of their staff who have been reading about how the new landscape will be full of “turbo-charged workplaces that foster interaction and learning”.

For some it will be purely a balance sheet problem; workplace transformation seen as a cost and not as a benefit. For others, inactivity will be as a result of not knowing what questions to ask in order to determine what form the future workplace will take.

If it is the former, ask for feedback from those who have recently completed a transformation project. It will never be pain-free, but with guidance from experts and leadership from within, it can revitalise an organisation when it comes to talent attraction or presenting a more confident outward face.

If it is the latter, then there is no magic bullet; every organisation is different. You could start the journey by asking about the three Ps (the enduring charm of alliteration). Ultimately you need to understand whether the space you have is appropriate (but might need reconfigured) or inappropriate (and might force a move), but you also need to decide on what type of organisation you want to be.

  1. Productivity: are there teams that predominantly need to be in the workplace, or conversely, are more effective working partially remotely?
  2. Place: do the spaces provided in the workplace support staff properly and are home working set-ups appropriate?
  3. Presence: at what level do you manage attendance in the workplace – at an organisational level with a minimum number of days or using a more flexible approach at a  team level?

Answers will produce more questions. The right questions will produce the answers that will help your organisation develop the right strategy.

If your organisation is governed by a “there’s always the 24-hr petrol station on the way home” mindset then be prepared for a very rude awakening. Your future workplace will be a re-hash of (or even the same as) what didn’t work before.

Ask yourself, is the equivalent of flowers from the petrol station what you want or just what you’re going to be left with.

Chris Carr

Senior Workplace Consultant, Space Solutions 

Business Comment

Business Comment is the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce’s bi-monthly magazine. It provides insight on Edinburgh’s vibrant business community, with features on the city’s key sectors, interviews with leading figures and news on new business developments in the capital.
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