Right size, Right fit
After 18 months of remote work and skeleton teams in-office, this return will be a shock to many. Large numbers of people are far more wary of public spaces, prompting anxiety and hyper awareness of hygiene.
In addition, a lot of people will be returning to offices that look very different from the ones they left. Precautions such as social distancing and Perspex screens may be in place. Workplace layouts may look different to allow for distancing, agile working and a greater reliance on video calls and remote work. For some, this will be their first introduction to the workplace. Despite the government furlough scheme, the pandemic brought an inevitable slew of redundancies. As things settled, people found new jobs which they began entirely remotely and are only now seeing their new workplaces for the first time.
Inductions to the office: from red curtains to FM
Workplace managers are conducting two forms of induction through this period: reintroductions for workers who moved to remote working at the beginning of the pandemic and introductions for those hired during the pandemic. For front of house and facilities management teams, this process means diving back in at the deep end. These inductions are the first touchpoint for site users, and they can act as comprehensive overviews of the customer journey, allowing FM teams to check that everything is running smoothly.
In addition to a guided tour, introductions will need to include health & safety and welfare information, a comprehensive overview of Covid precautions, and – for new starters – an introduction to the people and culture of their new workplace. Further, each introduction will have to be run repeatedly throughout the day as large groups won’t be able to move around the workplace together while social distancing is still in place.
These introductions will need to be carefully planned and managed. But overly engineering something like this can easily drain it of any sense of spontaneity and authenticity. The personal touch is even more important when people are feeling anxious or overwhelmed. With the pressure on FM staff to respond to the sudden influx of site users, it might be worth thinking outside the box.
On some client sites, Anabas has been working with an organisation that finds roles for out of work actors. Accustomed both to learning scripts and performing, the actors lead inductions in a friendly, enthusiastic and reassuring manner.
These actors bring something that any effective FM should be focused on: the personal touch. The ‘who’and ‘how’ of the customer service are just as important as the ‘what’ and that applies in the workplace, too. An hour-long lecture on wellbeing and workplace culture won’t engage new starters or make them excited to join the team. Presenting the information in an interesting, well measured way is crucial. Do that five times to five different teams over the course of the day and even the most charismatic facilities manager might be struggling. That’s why we’ve switched things up and reached out to actors. The feedback from clients and their employees has been really positive and our floor staff have been free to focus on the finer details of creating an excellent environment.
Adjusting to the long-term
The use of office space in the long-term is inevitably looking very different from pre-Covid. The move to hybrid working is still in flux, which means that workplace managers cannot know for certain what demand for space and facilities will look like. There will be fluctuations in site use, with many people opting to bookend their weeks with work-from-home days.
For facilities and service teams, this may mean some readjusting of priorities. Periodic tasks can be reallocated to quiet days to balance workloads and maintain efficiency. This will be more difficult for teams such as catering, where over-catering will lead to waste. Any workplace that has implemented changes will inevitably discover pinch-points in the coming months. Technology – and particularly AI – will play a crucial role in tracking and understanding footfall and subsequent demand for various services. In the longer term, such technology can also help organisations better manage their space in the form of refits and sub-lets.
There is plenty still for organisations to determine. The future of your workplace might look much like it did pre-Covid. On the other hand, it might involve mixed-use spaces, greater focus on events and shared or sub-let spaces. There is so much opportunity to transform the workplace experience, but organisations need to respond to their employees and create a cohesive user journey. The personal touch should be at the heart of this journey, now more than ever, after a period of such turbulence. Focusing on the workplace experience means caring for your employees.