Transforming offices: no commute, no need to wear a suit, home before it is dark

As another day dawns and I move from my bed to the kitchen and directly to my desk, I reflect on how much has changed over the past few months. Gone are the days where working from home was “allowed”. These days I’m wondering just when will I be getting back to the office, and under what pretext?

There are so many questions that come to mind when considering these new modern ways of working. Where do I work most productively and what do I need to be successful? I love working from home – I really do. No commute, no need to wear a suit, home before it is dark, home to take deliveries. It’s great! At the same time I also enjoy the human aspect of the office and recall the fun catch ups, laughs with colleagues, important hallway moments and dynamic team meetings. So I find myself thinking – I definitely want to go back to the office, but how often and what for. Right now it’s not clear to me.

Moving forward, what purpose will office spaces serve?

At KPMG we are moving ahead to define our own modern ways of working. In terms of workplace we have defined three hubs: home, client and office. There is no set expectation for where anyone must work. We are expected to do what is best for ourselves, our clients, our colleagues and our employer.

In recent weeks as the office has begun to reopen, I’ve found myself only going in if there is an incentive to work with or meet other colleagues. Working together with them gives me inspiration, and creativity. I steer clear of the isolated seats in the “focus zones” that use to be so hotly sought after and instead go to the more communal desks and I book a couple of meeting rooms for catch ups. I’m increasingly mindful that we must use collaboration technology to include my colleagues working from home.

My clients are asking similar questions. What purpose will our office spaces serve in the future? How will employees use office space and how often?

Data and analysis of the type of work that employees are doing in the office and the different teams that are working together will be critical in shaping this understanding.

What type of organisation do you want to be and what is the strategy on how to deliver this?

For modern ways of working, space should be at the centre of any conversation around building culture, aligning to strategy and enhancing employee experience. There are two sides – on one hand it is important to observe how employees are currently working and understand how office space can further enhance this, and on the other hand, it is important for organisations to proactively design spaces to be used in a particular way that will align to the broader strategy and desired employee experience.

Undoubtedly, a robust technological backbone that empowers and connects people will be essential in delivering sustained flexibility and inclusivity beyond COVID-19. Whether employees are working from home or the office, there must be a seamlessness with equity in opportunity to contribute, collaborate, learn and grow.

What part of an organisation is “responsible” for space, and driving decisions on what is needed?

There is clearly a substantial requirement to rethink the need for office space. There isn’t a set rule for where “space” or “workplace management” sits within an organisation. Often it is within an operations team, or asset management. These days people/HR teams and the WHS function will be important contributors to the conversation. Data and analytics are paramount. And this suggests that determining the need and use of office space will mean pulling a working group together from different parts of the business.

We are still in the early days of these changing ways of working, but it is forcing us to think outside of the box and really consider how flexible working and office space can be sustained and empowering from both a revenue perspective and employee experience. I am excited to see where this takes us, and the possibilities we are presented when it comes to adapting our working lives to meet the needs of our personal lives. And on that note, I’ll be logging off for 15 minutes to take my dog for a walk around the block.

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10 thoughts on “Transforming offices: no commute, no need to wear a suit, home before it is dark

  1. Excellent post Emily and very reflective of all the change that is happening to us and our clients! Much food for thought.

  2. Thanks Emily, nice post. We’ve been wondering about office space and presence too. The (somewhat counter-intuitive) idea we landed on was that communal office space will become more important, not less, in our new normal. We started with a mindset that perhaps a series of WeWork style arrangements might be the future. Our teams will be self organising, choosing where they work, when and how. Why not use convenient rental space in a suburb central to all? Perhaps. But then we started to think about why we will come together in the new normal, how rare it might be, and how important that space would be as a place where the culture of the firm came to life. We think the future might in fact be less office space, but that which we have would be iconic of the values, behaviours and culture of the business. Just a thought.

    1. Absolutely Mike. We see the workplace becoming more and more relevant for team building, collaboration and creativity. It will be so interesting to see how these ideas progress as we navigate this new normal, and how culture and space intertwine. Looking forward to continuing the conversation further.

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