Rightsizing your culture
6th August 2020
As businesses adapt to a new normal, some may be looking to downsize when it comes to office space. Decisions on when to do this could be driven by a lease expiring, or the need to cut costs. However, various questions will need to be considered first, such as how much work needs to be carried out in an office; what is the safest option for employee health and safety; and what is the best solution for the organisation?
As businesses ask themselves these questions, it will be a challenge to come up with concrete answers during a time of uncertainty. However, for many organisations, there will be a need to make operations more efficient and cost effective going into the future, and this will now be at the forefront of the agenda for many.
Right sizing is ensuring that the right space is available for the work of the future. Businesses can’t search for a solution to this on the internet, but need to weigh up all the factors and choose what is right for them. Considerations might include global location, culture, technology, lease agreements and job roles.
Here we look at some of the key areas organisations might need to consider when deciding how to right size.
- Work from Home Programs: Temporary work from home programs need to be expanded, solidified as a go forward solution and right sized to fit the current global environment
- Physical Solutions: Furniture and architectural solutions that have been produced to promote activity-based working (ABW) will need to be rethought with a focus on collaboration, social interaction and fostering culture as the primary objective.
Workplace of the Future
Data suggests that people still want an office, but that this space could be used differently in the future.
During the last 10 years, MovePlan has collected data from different companies and different industries through space utilisation studies. This has showed some very interesting points.
We have seen that individual workstations are not being utilised along with conference rooms and collaboration spaces. This is largely due to people not feeling that they have permission to use them, or don’t understand how to use these spaces. An opportunity exists here to optimise the current workplace or reduce square footage.
Change management should be used to ensure staff feel comfortable with any new proposals. Communications are often confused with change management and engagement. A focus on cultural norms and changing how we work will be essential as we go forward. Culture needs to shift to focus on change management, and ensure employees have a voice alongside leaders.
Offices of the future will need to offer more collaboration, social and cultural opportunities than individual workspace, which can be carried out remotely. Offering areas which can be used flexibly will be important going forward, to utilise the space available.
Cushman & Wakefield suggest that a Total Workplace Ecosystem  involving spaces in and out of the physical office is the workplace of the future. Making a move to a paperless workplace is achievable now, with storage space also likely to reduce. We will possibly see smaller more dispersed offices versus big campuses. A right-sized workplace and real estate strategy will be our collective next step.
Work from Home
MovePlan’s studies suggest that office spaces are not fully occupied, with much work done elsewhere. Work from home policies are likely to remain in place for many businesses, with offices used instead for cultural and social interaction.
A study by Morgan Lovell  suggests that 67% of respondents stated that “Social contact was missed most by office worker working from home”. In the study “90% of people would like to retain some elements of working from home”, most wanting to only be at home 1-2 days per week.
Leesman also produced a study that found 80.9% of people found “My home environment enables me to work productively” versus 62.8% of respondents who said “My workplace enables me to work productively”. Workplace Evolutionaries (WE) conducted a similar study that concluded “Overall, 68% are very successful working from home.”  CoreNet Global’s study asked if “working nine to five” was a thing of the past, 58% of respondents said ‘yes’. 
These findings suggest that employees are looking for flexibility when it comes to their working arrangements. Which will lead to business leaders questioning what a working from home policy should look like. However, rather than a blanket policy for everyone, it might be worth allowing employees and their managers to define individual plans based on job roles and needs.
HR partners might need to be involved to ensure everyone is treated fairly across the organisation, and to help define any guidelines, as oppose to rules. A plan will also need to be formed to ensure groups who need to work together are in the office at the same time.
Days on which people are designated to be in the office should be focused on working sessions, outputs that require multiple people and / or departments. The focus would be on planful, deep work  and purposeful collaboration versus reactive work which causes distraction and lack of productivity.
People who oppose working from home often site extra-long hours or focus on outputs instead of efforts. These opposing views will need to be taken into consideration. Ultimately, trust will need to be given to employees to do their job well whilst taking into account their own wellbeing, the business interests, geographical culture and the community.
With the rise of activity-based working (ABW) in the last 20 years, the focus of design and workplace strategy has been on open plan working; working in the right setting for the type of work that needs to be done that day. The focus has traditionally been to find the right mix of desk work, collaboration, and group thinking. While this strategy will still be relevant as we move to a new normal, the design community will be challenged to rethink what this means.
Many businesses found that staff were extremely productive, and that collaboration was at an all-time high during the COVID-19 lockdown. Working from home did not seem to be a barrier to working effectively, and many organisations reported an increased connection to the organisation’s community. The real challenge going forward will be to keep that connection and goodwill and not allow the progress already made slip.
As we move to a more varied workplace strategy that could involve smaller, more dispersed workplaces, natural turn-over will begin to happen. As some employees move on and others join, the challenge will be how to ensure that a connection to the brand, values and culture of an organisation is upheld when staff may be in the office less.
When employees are in the office, how do we ensure they have a positive experience as well as connect deeply with the culture and brand? This will need to go beyond posting values on the walls and displaying family photographs.
New designs need to foster building relationships, both individual and group. Buildings still need to be used as a tool, but for human interactions that complement remote working for people who have been with the organisation for a short period or a long time. Physical space needs to be fully interactive so that those working at home are able to contribute. This should focus on learning and sharing what has been discovered or progressed during individual working.
Flexible space will be key, with areas for staff to focus without interruption if necessary. Storage will also need to be re-thought, while technology solutions will need to ensure those working from home are supported.
As companies look to right sizing their portfolios, they should focus on what type of work needs to be done in the office. We have learned many lessons regarding productivity, employee wellbeing and working from home during the pandemic that shouldn’t be ignored. Right-sizing should not only look at desks and how many people can work from home but should be a total solution that encompasses physical real estate, employee experience and wellbeing, as well as changing the behaviors of staff to support this new normal.
- How People Work, MovePlan Group 2020
- Six Strategies for Avoiding the Pitfalls of Change Management, MovePlan 2020
- The Future of Workplace, Cushman & Wakefield 2020
- What do people want? Morgan Lovell, 2020
- The impact of home working on employee experience, Leesman 2020
- Work from Home Experience Survey, Workplace Evolutionaries 2020
- Corenetglobal.org, 2020
- Deep Work, Cal Newport 2016Deep Work, Cal Newport 2016