Introducing the discussion, MovePlan’s Suki Reilly welcomed those in attendance and explained how the next two years will be an experiment for businesses navigating their way through changes associated with the workplace “advancing by decades” due to the pandemic.

Michelle Brown, who hosted the event, explained that many of MovePlan’s clients are moving towards a  hybrid workplace, offering flexibility and choice to employees.

She added: “Some clients are moving towards complete flexibility with employees choosing their own schedule. We are seeing a lot of different approaches to make the workplace an attractive option.”

Office Design

One of MovePlan’s clients spoke at the event to explain how their company had adapted to the changes.

She explained that changes had begun pre-pandemic – around 10 years ago – when a new leader joined the company and encouraged a more open and collaborative way of working.

This included creating a ‘kitchen table’ concept with leaders being more visible and approachable to the rest of the workforce while also facilitating collaboration.

Now, with the changes brought about by Covid, the company has adapted further in creating its new office space and moved to using a booking app which is required for employees to use prior to visiting the office. The new office is ‘activity based’ with a variety of space types to work from depending on the task at hand. In addition, all the workstations can be used for sitting or standing.

Sensors then monitor whether a specific space is being used around the office, so the company can assess which areas are utilised, and adapt accordingly depending on what the data shows.

"There is the challenge of making the office desirable, so people want to make the commute"

— Michelle Brown, MovePlan

Attendees also discussed how furniture design can provide space solutions for the workplace. For example, furniture booths and high-back seats can offer privacy for employees.  “It’s a way to create private space without the need for rooms,” said one attendee.

One attendee said they were facing challenges encouraging employees back to the office. Suki responded: “At this stage it’s still quite difficult to evaluate the success of the return to work because we probably won’t see full occupancy for a few months. We are seeing many clients still allocating assigned space where there is an in-person culture, but with flexibility. That space, however, might be smaller than what was offered before the pandemic.”

Michelle added: “People enjoy working from home, they don’t want to commute, so there is the challenge of making the office desirable, so people want to make the commute and a destination people want to go.”

The Role of Leaders

Our client explained the key role of leaders when implementing change, saying: “They get advanced information which allows them to work through their own perspective and understand their role in leading others.”

She added: “Leaders will be expected to role model the new way of working. So, they won’t be expected to be in the office five days a week. We know our employees will look to their leaders, so our leaders are leading the change.”

An attendee agreed, explaining that leaders need to be seen modelling the expected behaviour in the office: “If I see a leader sitting on a sofa, I’m going to think that’s okay. But it can’t just be one time, it must be over time.”

Change Management

Delegates at the event heard how our client worked with us to bring about the changes using our tried-and-tested methodology. She said: “Engaging individuals with this journey is critical. They need to know what this change means and then we help them to visualise the change. We have tackled this in a number of ways.

“Thanks to Michelle [from MovePlan] we put in place change champions. They are critical because they are grass roots who advocate for the change. We give them advanced information which they share with colleagues.”

Michelle also led a change session with change champions, with a focus on explaining the ‘whys’ to teams. Our client said: “This focused on why do we have to come into the office? What is their individual best place to work? But also, as a team, do we need to be together? Different teams will have different needs.”

She explained that teams had been invited in to tour the office and familiarise themselves with the new environment.

Suki spoke about the importance of creating connections following two years of remote working. She explained that when everyone began working remotely during the pandemic, they had already come from a place of connection having already worked together in an office. “Two years later and people haven’t had those connections,” she said, adding: “So, even if your policy is that you don’t need people to come in five days a week, you still need to create those connections so people can work together when dispersed.”

Concluding the discussion, Michelle explained that communication and engagement is key for any change, adding: “Leaders need to ensure that culture isn’t lost and performance isn’t suffering.”