As the pace of vaccinations continues to accelerate, employers are spending a lot of time determining how to safely bring people back into the office. However, health and safety measures are not the only aspects of workplaces that need to evolve. Leaders should use this opportunity to depart from office norms that no longer serve their employees.
While there is always a tendency to want to return to “the way things were,” you need to think about the long-term changes you can make in how your office works rather than temporary changes driven by Covid.
Here are four areas I believe will make the office better if we leave them in the pre-pandemic era:
- Long meetings
According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the number of meetings per person has risen by 12 percent since the pandemic, yet the average length of a meeting has declined by 20 percent. That means that despite people’s calendars getting booked more often, there’s a more of an appetite for shorter meetings over the longer 60 minute + sessions.
While Covid restrictions may force us to rethink meeting rooms, it is now time to challenge the meeting itself. Let’s make better use of our time and energy by sending a pre-meeting agendas and using our time together to align on actions. Or, rather than spending 30 minutes walking through updates, consider using a Loom video and allowing folks to react and respond accordingly.
- After work events
Before the pandemic, there was the idea that bonding and networking only happen in person, normally after 5 p.m. With a greater awareness of work life balance we now need to be more intentional about creating meaningful connections with our colleagues.
Instead of defaulting back to in person, after work events, look to add breaks within the workday where teams can connect and socialise that don’t start early or end late so that everyone can attend whether they are in the office or working remotely.
- Coming into the office when you’re unwell
We’ve all felt the dread of walking into a conference room with someone who is coughing and sneezing. The only way we can return to working from an office is to learn from the past year and play it safe when it comes to health.
I hope that after a year of normalising the concept that work isn’t just a place, employees will be more comfortable with staying home when feeling under the weather. It simply isn’t worth putting other teammates at risk. For leaders, the end of the pandemic shouldn’t mean the end of encouraging people to avoid the office if they aren’t feeling well.
No one should be expected to show up and tough it out, and no one should be rewarded for doing so.
- The painful commute
The average UK worker spent 384 hours, or well over 16 full calendar days, commuting before the pandemic. 63% percent of worker typically travel by car to get to work, which also has a negative impact on carbon emissions. There are definitely advantages to a commute, including separation between work and home and time to think or read, but for many people, commuting for hours at a time is something they would like to avoid doing every single day.
Providing options for employees to work when and where they work best will continue to be the best strategy for recruiting and retaining top talent, and create less congestion on the road in the process.