As we move into a post-pandemic working environment, our approach to the way our workspaces and teams will operate will likely look very different. We know from watching (and experiencing) recent events in Melbourne that as a country, we are not out of the woods. Even with most states and territories showing low active case numbers, things can turn on a pin.
The longer we stay home, the more our work and personal lives are overlapping. Which for many is the key reason they are looking forward to heading back to a workplace to separate those parts of our lives once again. That said, however, for many businesses a permanent 5-day-a-week return to the traditional office is unlikely. In our new normal, it’s not what employees want, and it is deemed as high risk for business.
Nous House operates smaller professional coworking spaces across several Australian cities, and we’ve spoken with many members about what they might need from their future workplace. We believe the future of safe and effective working environments lies in hybrid working models – for the way in which people work and where people work. There will be flexible agreements to allow employees to work from home or from an office, while using flexible spaces on flexible terms.
So what will employees expect of their working spaces post COVID-19?
Here’s how we see the offices of the future.
Flexibility will be a priority.
If there is one thing we have learned about working through a pandemic it’s that productivity is not necessarily related to being in an office 8 hours a day. In fact, according to a report in the Australian Financial Review, published shortly after COVID sent whole offices home overnight, more than two-thirds said they were more productive working at home than in an office.
Many of us have learnt to work around such things as remote learning, caring for dependents and being respectful of partners who are also working at home. Employers and employees alike have become more aware, and accepting, of the distractions of life.
Some companies, small business owners and managers, who were perhaps reluctant to embrace remote working before March 2020, have had their hands forced. And the work is still being done, deadlines are being met and productivity has not plummeted. We are being recognised for what we do, not where we sit.
But while we believe it will be more common for remote work to become more commonplace, physical workplaces will always hold value: to bring people together, to develop culture, to create communities and to create that space between home and work.
Hybrid working – changing where and when we work.
The post-pandemic working week is likely to include a combination of some work from home and some from an office.
Katrina Ong, who works for Aged Care consultants Pride Living, already enjoyed a form of hybrid working before the global pandemic hit. Pre-COVID, she was travelling to other interstate offices, visiting clients or working from home as well as being a member of Nous House in Melbourne.
“Nous House gives me the flexibility to be able to work here or work at home, with the ability to use their address and the meeting rooms.”
Katrina worked at home when she first started with Pride Living, but missed the connection with others. The flexibility of a membership with Nous House has been the perfect solution for her. A built-in community, plus a well-equipped,
comfortable and central place to work from.
Irene Bennett, who works for Theramex, a global pharmaceutical company, agrees that flexibility is key. The company has a small team working from Nous House Sydney. Although she was not keen to work from home when COVID hit, she sees advantages in being more flexible.
“Going forward, I think I will look at my schedule and think it might be better to work from home today”.
Physical distance and better hygiene is here to stay.
Physical distancing is here to stay. Offices and desks will need to be more spaced out to ensure that you can maintain appropriate distancing, and sanitisation stations and more regular cleaning will be the norm. Some trends of the past decade or so will need to be reversed, and organisations will have to rethink the way teams work together.
Premium buildings with experienced building management and onsite teams, along with all-inclusive flexible workspaces within these buildings will be well-placed in this regard.
According to SafeWork Australia, businesses have a duty to “eliminate the risk of exposure to COVID-19 if reasonably practicable. If you are not able to eliminate the risk of exposure to COVID-19, you must minimise that risk, as far as is reasonably practicable.”
With this in mind, employers will be mandated to follow strict protocols and businesses will be doing all they can to mitigate risk with as little disruption as possible. But in a post-pandemic world, office budgets are likely to be tighter, and businesses may be looking at ways to reduce, not increase their office footprints and cleaning costs.
It’s apparent that hybrid working is once again looking very much like the future of work. This combination of working ‘on’ and ‘off’ site will tick all the boxes for both employers and employees. It will give you a feeling of community while being able to maintain physical distancing. You can work in a way that suits you – be as connected to others as you wish, and work independently when you want.
Finding more space to spread out has not been an issue for Theramax. Nous House worked with Theramex to alter their
space to ensure the team could adhere to physical distancing requirements. The team was able to reconfigure its
office swiftly, something that would have been very difficult – if not impossible – if they were contracted under long term
commercial lease agreements.
Post-Covid, Irene is confident that Nous House will “do that extra bit”.
“With our space at Nous House we are able to offer flexibility and we have space to meet our clients safely. And, we’re able to leverage things like meeting rooms, printers, and kitchen
facilities. We wouldn’t have the same standard at a similar price in our own space.”
Workplace communities will be built on compassion and support.
Community will be the key to recovery, and we believe there will be a greater sense of support and compassion. So many of us are missing the “water cooler” aspect of the office.
We are craving connections with co-workers, to share a purpose, bounce ideas around and to debrief. For many, COVID-19 has threatened health, wellbeing and financial future. We’ve been juggling and trying to adapt to this once in a 100-year event. We believe the next normal workplace will celebrate the office community and create more conscious opportunities for workers to collaborate and socialise together.
As businesses across the country recover from the effects of lockdowns and limits, many will be looking at how to create this kind of culture – while allowing for physical distancing. It’s one thing to be able to hold a Zoom meeting with staff, it’s a whole other thing to connect face-to-face.
We hear from our community at Nous House that is what they are most looking forward to experiencing again post-COVID.
“I am an extrovert. I love meeting people,” says Irene of Theramex. “It’s stimulating being able to mingle with people at Nous Group as well as the other business within Nous House. They are really smart people and it reflects well on your own team to have that sort of calibre of people around.”
Successful companies know it’s vital to promote and maintain a single culture across the organisation, ensuring staff feel they are part of something bigger.
Organisational culture is a key consideration for Pride Living. By ensuring their employee Katrina has access to a desk at Nous House, she’s ‘not isolated, even though she is working remotely.
Katrina is grateful that her flexible working arrangement means she is able to work at home when needed, and at a CBD office should she be meeting with clients in the city or craving human interaction.
“Nous is very proactive when it comes to the social aspect of the workplace. And the people are very friendly.”
The hybrid working model provides benefits many employees will expect of their workplaces post-COVID, including community and connection. Using shared workspaces as part of this model allows for collaboration and co-operation across the various members. Whilst also providing considerable cost
savings and incredible flexibility – a welcome certainty in these uncertain times.
Nous House has offices and co-working desks available in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. We welcome enquiries from companies who are looking for a hybrid, flexible way of working post-COVID.