Writer: Felipe Rivas
2 min read May 2021 — The COVID-19 pandemic simultaneously created disruption in the workplace in terms of space, placement and design while underpinning the importance of a strong and engaging organizational culture. Progressive Strategy & Consulting has been key in helping clients and companies navigate through the organizational challenges of keeping employees, customers and communities engaged in the face of the ongoing health crisis.
The national architectural and engineering firm’s ethos of designing solutions that improve space, places and environments is an unprecedented focus as the nation collectively considers the future of work. As the pandemic landscape improves, the return to office option will be a careful decision influenced by space considerations and the continued ability to work remotely.
“There is no one-size-fits-all solution for going back to the workplace. The process and outcomes should be built around an organization’s business and talent strategy,” Workplace Strategy and Discovery Consultant Melissa Malburg told Invest:. “It’s important to understand what problem you’re trying to solve. Knowing your purpose statement – or your “why” – is vital to setting strategy and developing a plan. It’s possible that not everyone will end up going back to the office. Many organizations and individuals have found they work just as well, or better, at home. The solution will look different for everyone,” she said.
As industry consultants, workplace strategy and strategizing for further market uncertainties were among the main ways Progressive Strategy & Consulting leaders helped clients overcome challenges over the course of the pandemic. “We’ve been helping clients with scenario planning and change management to help embrace the ambiguity of what’s happening,” Organizational Change and Communications Consultant Karen Karatkiewicz told Invest:.”It’s important to not be over reactive to what happens day-to-day. Instead, it’s taking the long-game approach and being sure steps are purposeful and happen when the organization is ready,” she said.
The pandemic further stress-tested organizations’ remote working capabilities. The future of work is carefully balanced by workforce flexibility and providing functions at the office that cannot be done in the home setting. “The workplace isn’t dead, it’s different. The workplace should support functions that can’t be well done at home. That likely will mean more spaces for socialization and collaboration, which aren’t easily done on Zoom,” Malburg said. “Forward-thinking organizations will need to consider how they will adapt going forward. You need to develop a business reason for coming back, if that is what’s best for your organization. It won’t be enough to just tell employees they have to come back to the office for the sake of coming back.”
Collaboration and mentoring are workplace aspects that do not translate as easily into the remote work setting and as organizations consider the future of work, these high-touch functions will benefit from a physical presence. Yet, as companies revise their remote work policies, establishing a clear framework will be key. New policies need to be developed along with setting and communicating clear expectations , Karatkiewicz said. “For example, defining core business hours – when people must be available to their teams, even when remote – will be helpful in having a successful remote work program,” she said. Additionally, now that there is an understanding that employees can successfully work from home, it is critical for companies to reassess evaluation of staff. “Our measures of success have changed. You need to be clear with staff on how they will be evaluated and how their success will be measured. The old mentality of ‘butts in seats’ just doesn’t work anymore,” she said.
According to Malburg and Karatkiewicz, these are among the main takeaways companies should keep in mind when considering the future of work:
- There is no one solution for the future of work. Every organization’s needs are different, which means their plan and strategy will be unique.
- Don’t get caught up in “getting it right. ”Stay focused on your organization’s purpose and vision. Adaptability will be key.
- Don’t jump right to making changes to your space – space supports strategy. Determine where you want to go first and then figure out how to get there. Space is just one of many tools that support organizational goals.
- Know what you’re solving for. Bringing people back to the office just for the sake of doing it won’t work. You need to have a reason why, and it needs to be well communicated with staff.
- Don’t be reactive to every little thing that happens. Follow the plan you’ve created and be purposeful in your actions. Don’t feel like you must act.
- Engage your people in the process. Provide opportunities for feedback loops. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of staff and get their insight.
To help organizations understand the nuances of re-engaging the workplace, Progressive Strategy & Consulting is hosting its “Future of Work” webinar series. The third installment of the series, “Power of Place: Designing Spaces that Support the Workforce,” is happening on Thursday, May 20, from 11 a.m. to noon EST. Featuring Melissa Malburg, Consumers Credit Union Vice President of Organizational Development Kristen Davidson, and Small Business Association of Michigan President Brian Calley, these leaders will cover topics such as the evolution of work, remote and hybrid workforce options, and space as a tool to support strategy and more.
For more information, visit:
Setting Strategy: Planning for the Future of Work https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jniQ0cJ92O4
Employee Experience: Empowering People to Do Their Best Work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3g9x-XbdOY