The Covid 19 pandemic has brought about huge changes in the way we work. But more importantly, it brought uncertainty in all spheres of life, not only with its arrival, but also with its departure. It generated widespread uncertainty making it difficult to make firm, long-term decisions. Is the hybrid working model along with flexible office space the solution that will help overcome this uncertainty, enduring and even dominating for the long term, in the period ahead of us?
The pandemic has passed, but many of the changes have remained
The pandemic appeared suddenly. No one had a ready-made, well-tested plan on how to deal with its course or its consequences.
It forced both companies and consumers to act quickly and adopt new practices. And even though they were created and implemented as a response to a crisis, many of them will most likely remain forever. The discontinuity that was clearly present at the beginning of the pandemic, is no longer present in the period following its end.
The Covid-19 pandemic has strengthened the ranks of trends that now, with the ultimate end in sight, are seriously and fundamentally changing the way we work in the long run.
Let's take a look at the most important changes:
1. The scope of business trips will be reduced.
Business communities have massively embraced videoconferencing and continue to use it frequently even after the end of the pandemic. The need has been established for owning and using appropriate equipment and applications. That is why most new flexible office spaces are without exception equipped with the latest videoconferencing solutions.
2. The transition to electronic commerce and other virtual transactions will continue.
During the pandemic, use of electronic commerce and virtual transactions increased from 2 to more than 5 times, depending on the region.
As many as three-quarters of the users, who first had a need and started working this way during pandemic conditions, have a clear intention to continue working this way even after the end of the pandemic.
At the same time, the number of jobs in complementary systems such as distribution, transport, storage, etc., also increased. Both established and new start-up projects needed not only additional physical space but also new innovative solutions. Many of them chose the hybrid working model and flexible office spaces.
3. Working from home and virtual meetings will continue even after the end of the pandemic.
Although the intensity has decreased compared to the peak of the pandemic, this occurence has significantly increased compared to pre-pandemic normality.
In relation to the future, analyzing workplaces where their productivity did not decrease when working from home, McKinsey estimates that 20 to 25% of female workers in developed countries could work from home from 3 to 5 days a week.
This would represent an increase of 3-4 times compared to the pre-pandemic reality.
The trend towards a hybrid working model is often accompanied by the transformation of offices into flexible office spaces. The goal is to get the maximum positive effect.
Such a trend is accompanied by the migration of companies from large cities and business centers to small, quiet suburbs. On a secondary level, this trend will also lead to a reduction in public transport to urban areas and business centers, as well as a reduction in the need for restaurants and retail establishments.
But on the other hand, business communities also see that there are jobs that, although technically can be done from a distance, are most effectively done directly and in person. How can we single them out:
● crucially important business decisions,
● inspiring team meetings,
● confidential conversations and exchanges of information,
● introducing new employees, etc.
All these activities more or less lose efficiency if they are carried out from a distance.
That's why many companies started to return back to the office, but with the use of a hybrid working model and the use of flexible office spaces. This trend is expected to lead to a reduction in the need for office space of up to 30%.
What is most important to us now is that the hybrid working model and flexible office spaces are a trend both for those who profited from the pandemic and for those who lost steam while working from home in unexpected and unfavorable conditions.
Why is the hybrid model and flexible office space a trend with both sides, “winners” and "losers" affected by the pandemic?
Every change produces winners and losers.
The recent Covid pandemic isn’t any different. Everyone, everywhere in the world, faced a drastic change in the working environment in one instant. First of all, let us mention:
● social distancing,
● huge travel restrictions,
● disruption in the supply chain, etc.
From a globalized economy in which people, products and ideas circulated easily across borders, we suddenly shifted into closed states, regions, cities and neighborhoods, down to the level of a family and a home that cannot be abandoned or required a strictly defined procedure to do so.
Businesses had to adapt or at least try to.
But not all businesses are the same. The pandemic differentiated two groups of businesses:
The first group - "the winners" - transitioned to working from home without any problems.
Those were the businesses where communication and work tasks are predominantly carried out by computer, via the Internet, by telephone and so on. With small modifications, they adapted to the new reality very quickly. Soon, both the employees and the company's management became convinced of the benefits of working from home:
● Enjoying the comforts of home;
● Time and money saved for transportation to the workplace;
● Flexibility in working hours when possible;
● Savings on funds for owning/leasing/maintaining office space, etc.
Now, at the end of the pandemic, they know well all the good aspects of working from home that they want to maintain. But at the same time, they have the opportunity to improve upon that by making use of the benefits of mobility and limited time in the office.
This is why a large number of businesses are moving towards a hybrid model of work and use of flexible office spaces. You keep the gains from working from home for a longer period of time, but you can also take advantage of the gains from a short-term stay in a flexible office space such as:
● Direct face-to-face contact;
● Interpersonal socialization;
● Increased efficiency at team meetings;
● Performing practical tasks, etc.
Thus, the preconditions are established for even better results than in both the pre-pandemic and the pandemic period.
The second group - "the losers" - faced huge problems when transitioning to working from home or could not manage it at all, so they stopped certain work processes.
Those were the businesses in which tasks and work processes are predominantly performed with direct contact, direct communication, physical activity and presence. Any attempt at virtualization significantly complicates the way they function or makes it impossible to function at all.
They tried to introduce work from home wherever it was theoretically possible. They also tried to organize work with physical presence using several protocols and necessary protective equipment. The results in both cases were negative compared to the pre-pandemic, with obvious problems such as:
● Impossibility to perform work due to the impossibility of physical access;
● Interruption of all processes that require social interaction and direct physical
● Decreased productivity and increased costs due to the application of health
protocols and social distancing;
● Decreased income for employees and loss for companies;
● Loss of a job for those who are redundant in the new organizational scheme;
● Violation of the entire system of organization, work atmosphere, motivation, etc.
Some of these businesses stopped working altogether and were eagerly awaiting the end of the pandemic.
Even during the pandemic these companies were trying to "return to the old ways". They gained new knowledge during this crisis and were very happy to welcome the end of the pandemic.
Namely, although unpleasant, the period of working from home showed them the advantages of having it done in the right way and in the appropriate workplace. This unplanned experiment allowed them to see (both in themselves and others) that with careful and precise management of human resources, they can reach the highest level of productivity and efficiency in work. The various work tasks and processes allowed for flexible organization of the work.
That is why, wherever possible, a hybrid working model along with flexible office spaces should be implemented. Of course not in the factory hall, at the airport or in the kitchen of the restaurant. Rather, in all those segments where it will undoubtedly increase the satisfaction of the worker, increase his productivity and generate benefits for the company as a whole.
Does all this mean that working in the office has a future?
The coronavirus pandemic proves that office work can be more flexible. We have seen and experienced that a lot of work can be done remotely and we are using what we have learned in the new post-pandemic conditions.
But at the same time, the pandemic has shown that office spaces have remained popular among employees. All of them, from management staff to ordinary employees, have recognized the benefits of working in an official office space, even for a limited period of time.
According to a survey, the vast majority of office workers prefer to work one or more days in the office, and close to 80 percent of surveyed executives plan to introduce some form of hybrid working model in the post-pandemic reality.
Flexible office space is the next necessary step.
For the success of the hybrid model, it’s not enough to have organizational placements and new working policies. It is necessary to have a space that is suitable for the new things that will be introduced. And we have already seen that both the "winners" and the "losers" in the pandemic share the same belief: that the implementation of the hybrid working model and flexible office spaces is a winning combination.
The design and execution of a flexible office space is not a “do it yourself overnight” project. Rather, it requires careful analysis of the team and the business to create the right solution.
Staying in various flexible office spaces can help. Not only to test the space and technological solutions, but also to see first-hand the reaction of your own team. Each team carries within itself some uniqueness that can only be measured through experience and observation. And then, that can be the basis for creating the ideal flexible office space.
The pandemic has caused us all to think about the traditional image of the office. So let's change that.
From an ordinary place to work - now it is more and more a public space for collaboration, a stimulus for innovation, with an emphasis on the promotion of company culture and support for successful teams.
The design of the new era of flexible office spaces is focused on:
● availability of all necessary technology;
● optimal conditions for highly productive team meetings;
● providing conditions for comfortable, satisfied and happy employees.
If all of this resonates with the needs of your business, there is good news! This kind of flexible office space already exists here in Skopje.
Following world class trends, we created our LinkAcross Development Center, as a flexible office space that Macedonian or foreign companies can use immediately for their daily operations. Whether as a one-day experiment, for one occasion or another, or as a continuous recurring event - this flexible meeting space has the potential to positively impact your company.
Feel free to contact us for any further information.