My name is Bill Robert, I’m the co-founder of Wx, a workplace consulting & analytics company. We help large organizations to quantify and improve their workplace experience, thanks to workplace analytics & ethnography.
We are seeing flourishing these days many many plans to re-open offices after the COVID-19 confinement. If you are a real estate manager, or a workplace strategist, you probably have done yours. Should you enforce wearing a mask for everyone? Should you check the temperature of your visitor? Should you organize several shifts in your teams to limit the maximum number of people in the office? All of these are just emergency measures. Now, before spending money on a UV decontamination machine or budget your refurbishment plan for the workplace of the future, you should do one thing. One thing that seems to have been forgotten in every plan we have seen. One thing so simple that you would wonder why you have not done it before.
And this thing is…
Asking. your people. what they NEED. And should I add, putting them first in your thinking process.
You see, the problem with trying to anticipate every details and situation arising after covid 19 have several negative externalities:
- We come up with solutions that are unfit for human usage. Think about Cushman & wakefield paper bib, or imposing masks without thinking about how to drink coffee, water, or have a smoke, if you’re supposed to wear it for a 4-hour long continuous time. Think about the many rules to respect social distancing, when we barely think about washing our hands or not touching our face. With the overwhelming number of measures we are putting in place, aren’t we just creating an office that no one will want to use?
- Second, we tend to do these things as it would be the new normal. There is nothing more wrong than this. We just don’t know if this over-sanitarized environment will be the new normal. What we are probably doing here is a fitted response to an abnormal situation – and so, if it’s anormal, it might end. We should consider THESE as temporary measures – maybe it won’t be that temporary, but there are huge chances that it will be. Humanity has gone through pandemics and forgot. That’s just how it is. Oh, and by the way, you should tell this to your people, and especially if the rules are going to complicated or much stricter than before. It’s easier to go through something if you know it will stop – like working out, for example
- Third – We also tend to think that EVERYONE will come back in the same time. Wrong, wrong, wrong. That’s why we always invite our clients to place utilization sensors in their facilities – to realize that you NEVER operate at full capacity, even before the crisis. The average occupancy we were observing before the crisis was 40% – that was the baseline. We of course expect it to be lower after it – and so should you. If you start integrating this, you’ll see, thinking your elevators, your meeting rooms and the workstations of your building will be much, much simpler.
So this being said, now, you should ASK your people what they need. So how to do this?
- First, communicate on the fact that you’re thinking about preparing the future of your company and your workplace to your people. An well thought email from your CEO will do the trick – and inviting to answer to a survey.
- So, a survey – yes. It’s easy to set up, and at least, it will provide the ground principles to start your project. You must ask if your employees want to come at work after the crisis, how many days per week, to do what. You should ask them about their feeling, their frustrations, and their expectations. What sort of material they have been using during the confinement. What did they perceive as being the hardest in their routine. What have changed in their mind regarding the office. Needless to say, but Wx can support you in this process
- Then, the best thing to do is to get in an ethnographic study and creates detailed personas. Our ethnographers can help you doing this – even remotely. This will enable your entire organization to project, on human grounds, the different intiatives you are thinking to take after the re-opening.
- Lastly: you should start measuring the behavior. Designing a workplace is always empirical and fact-based, so invest in sensors to count the number of people getting in your facilities. contact us, that our passion, we’ll advise you on the best solution to put in place.
Last thing: Don’t be afraid on asking your people what they need : you might actually be surprised by the answer, and you’ll be performing an act of trust – which is always better than risking to appear patronizing them.
I wish you good luck, and I see you for the next video!