Going back to work in the current climate
After an atypical summer, September has come around and many companies have restarted their activity. New working models, such as remote working, and flexible spatial solutions, with versatile furniture, protective panels, antibacterial materials and new technological tools are here to stay. But are we really ready to face this new reality?
Many companies wonder if it would be better to redesign their workspace based on new density, distance and hygiene parameters, or move to a new space altogether. Analysing objectives and being aware of the needs of their workers is of the utmost importance for companies that, faced with the global COVID-19 pandemic, require a customised solution and tools that can easily adapt to change.
Redesigning or even expanding the workspace to meet the new safety distances, and setting up a schedule for movements and actions, are some of the new measures to be adopted. As well as drawing up an action protocol and measures that determine what type of activities can and cannot be carried out remotely, investment and training of teams in non-face-to-face work, and a technological implementation that boosts productivity, communication, coordination and collaboration between workers.
Physical distancing between work stations, capacity control in meeting and socialising areas, the erection of physical barriers, organising halls and corridors, strict cleaning and hygiene measures, and a strong commitment to digitalisation and the implementation of automated solutions are some of the measures that companies are already taking to ensure a safe return to places of work. Holding fewer external meetings and taking less business trips have highlighted the need to have better resources for holding virtual meetings, something that has been a long time coming.
In a country such as Spain where, according to the study 'Remote Working in Spain', published by the Bank of Spain, in 2019, only 8.3% of employees worked occasionally from home; therefore this new situation is a significant challenge. Much more than just changing where people work, this transformation requires a thorough analysis of the needs and processes to be adopted by each company. Only by knowing their strengths and weaknesses, will they be able to design safe and healthy spaces that boost the productivity and well-being of employees, both those working in-house and remotely.
COVID-19 has brought about a paradigm shift in the working model, ensuring that nothing will ever be the same again, where working remotely will continue to support presential activity. In the meantime, some companies are offering satellite locations where employees can work remotely, as an alternative to unsustainable remote working for some, whether due to family situation, lack of space or not having the right equipment that adheres to European standards. Less socialising and the loss of the now-more-than-ever highly-valued feeling of community, the disappearance of the boundaries between professional and personal life, or the lack of adequate furniture and technology, has led to many preferring to go into the office instead of working at home.
These months of ´forced´ remote working have shown the need for clear and well-defined strategies and regulations to regulate it. Each case is different, and to evaluate remote working, it is important to take into account the tasks to be carried out by each team or worker, as well as the resources they have at their disposal. While in the office, all employees have the necessary spaces and tools to carry out their job; the same is not always the case in home offices, where conditions vary considerably. Only by guaranteeing the adequate standards of safety, lighting, acoustics and ergonomics in home offices, will they be able to boost the productivity and well-being of their employees.
If one thing is clear from this situation, it is the need to reinvent the work environment in a completely different way from how it was up until just a few months ago. Rethinking the role of the traditional workspace and striking a balance between on-site and remote activity can ensure that many companies come back 'stronger than ever'. To achieve this, it is essential to offer an ecosystem of flexible spaces, allowing employees to work from the office, home office or in satellite spaces. In hotels, airports, restaurants or outdoor areas, the latter offer an alternative that combines life, enjoyment and work, where collaboration, socialisation and learning are made easier.
Combining the digital with the physical, through furniture with in-built technology or IoT platforms with the sensorisation of jobs which Actiu has already been working on in order to optimise workspaces, reduce their environmental impact and improve the well-being of workers, is another one of the measures that companies can adopt to create a productive and safe workspace. All the investments that companies make now in their spaces and workers represent a commitment to an increasingly uncertain and versatile future, which we all must be prepared to face.
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