Reimagining the workspace for wellbeing
Organizations maintaining physical workplaces will need to consider reconfiguring the space to support employee wellbeing. This will include the spacing of desks, better air filtration, and fabrics and surfaces that are antimicrobial. Some organizations are looking to expand existing green standards to have a category for buildings that are “WELL” certified — a rating system that would focus exclusively on the impacts of buildings on health and wellbeing.5 Others will seek professional advice on optimal configuration and occupancy. For example, a global commercial real estate services company recently launched a physical distancing concept to help their clients prepare for employees to return to the office.6
Where physical distancing proves too difficult, such as hair salons, dental offices, mass transit and retail, organizations should provide personal protective equipment, including face masks and gloves, to their employees. One large US retailer is requiring both employees and customers to wear face masks in their stores.7 The state of New York in the US requires people to wear face masks wherever physical distancing isn’t possible.8 And London’s Mayor, Sadiq Kahn has publicly encouraged those who can’t physically distance to wear a facial covering.
Organizations will also have to increase the level of effort and frequency of their cleaning protocols. An online lodging marketplace company is recommending a 24-hour vacancy period between guests and specifying the types of disinfectants lodging providers should be using.9
Wellbeing is not just in the company office but also includes the home office. A global technology company is providing $1,000 per employee to purchase home office equipment, such as sit-stand desks and ergonomic chairs.
Keeping people and privacy safe
Health and security will go hand-in-hand when organizations begin to re-imagine the office for wellbeing. Many organizations will consider new security checks focused on health. For example, when employees arrive at an office or worksite, organizations may integrate health as part of their security protocols to promote health safety and reduce the risks of transmitting illness.
In China, officials have been working with a mobile payment service and messaging platform to create a virtual passport with a health code that denotes green for go and red for quarantine.10 In the US, a national hardware retailer is distributing thermometers to employees for temperature checks before work.11
Meanwhile, a global investment bank and investment firm is considering adding infrared body temperature scanners to some offices, along with virus and antibody testing kits.
Yet, even as organizations pursue policies and programs intended to help safeguard employee health, they will have do so while respecting employee privacy. Failure to do so will erode employee trust and stifle their pursuit of the extraordinary.
As the nature of remote work expands, companies will need to enhance remote access security and security awareness training. A laptop is stolen every 53 seconds and 93% of data breaches happen in less than a minute.12 Companies need to train employees in laptop security, whether they are in the office, their home office, a coffee shop or their vehicle.
Priority 2: The future of remote work
As shelter-in-place orders began around the world, organizations quickly had to adjust policies enable remote working. As employers consider the future and lessons learned, many employees will want to continue to avoid long commutes, have better balance of work and life, and will demand more flexible working schedules from employers.
As employers evaluate the new future around remote work, they will want to consider a more structured approach to measuring productivity and redefining work schedules. They will need to review and reconsider support for home office equipment such as headsets, office furniture, internet and phone service, and other expenses. It will trigger a review of child-care approaches and determine what types of referrals or back up services are needed.
There are also a number of tax and legal implications of remote work that require careful review, including state unemployment and payroll tax withholding and required subsidies for minimum-wage earners. Companies will also need to increase investments in tools, technology and skill-building to support remote work.
Organizations looking to unleash human power will put their employees at the center of their decision-making around remote work to promote employee wellbeing and flexibility. They will consider how their remote work plans impact their ability to innovate at scale, particularly given fears that innovation may suffer as more organizations move to remote work.13
However, when tied to the eight traits that enable humans to do the extraordinary, remote working and flexibility will have the potential to facilitate opportunities for collective cooperation, imagination and happiness.
As organizations develop their plans for the future of remote work, they will want to center their efforts on four key focus areas.
Assessing how many employees will work remotely in the future
During the pandemic, 47.5% of the UK workforce reported working remotely between 23 March and 4 April. Moreover, according to a Robert Half Work from Home Perception report, 63% of people realize their job is doable from home.
Organizations will want to determine which jobs and role levels are conducive for remote work and which are better performed on-premise. Finding the right balance between workplace and remote work will help organizations unleash the potential for resilience, collective cooperation and transformative practices.