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The future of the office

When pandemics sweep through societies everything changes and changes very quickly. It is said that necessity is the mother of invention and over the last 18 months we have seen quite astonishing innovation, most notably the plethora of vaccines that now give us all the opportunity to return to some way of normal life.

Almost nothing in our personal and working lives has been untouched. So, has it changed for ever, will anything go back to the old normal?

We think that in the world of work and commerce there are many things that will not return to the old ways of working, the genie is well and truly out of the bottle.

There are many jobs that on the surface seem not be unaffected in this changed future but as we all adapt to new ways of working and living it will undoubtedly have an impact. If more people are working remotely and flexibly will it continue to change our shopping behaviour, no longer confined to strict office hours will the peak shopping hours change which in turn will impact on staffing requirements?

What of those who have been forced to work from home? Many have been keen to get back into an office environment so that they can meet and interact face-to-face with colleagues again. But how many will be already starting to get frustrated with the daily commute, the inflexibility of working 9 to 5, the constant distraction, the cost of coffee at the local Barista?

I don’t want to return to an office and I’m not alone. Will employers be forced to be more flexible in their approach, certainly the pandemic has normalised remote working. Hard to claim it doesn’t work if you have asked your staff to do nothing other than this over the last year or so.

Many businesses are starting to plan for a new type of working environment, one that is more flexible and enabled by technology which has removed many of the barriers that have kept workers pinned to their desks. This has a knock-on effect to how we utilise workspaces and offices. As a business we are implementing a new way of working that moves us away from having everyone coming into an office furnished with dedicated desks, phones and computers. We have invested in better technology, moved our IT from in-house server based to the cloud and introduced a phone system that replicates the experience of an office exchange regardless of where in the country our staff are taking calls. We have largely become paper free, something we have tried unsuccessfully to do for many years but managed to achieve almost overnight, that mother of invention at play once more.

And for all the nay-sayers who are sceptical about the motives of staff not wanting to be in a formal working environment we have seen not only an increase in productivity but also in staff satisfaction, it seems to work both ways.

‘If we can move past decades of orthodoxy about 9-to-5, office-centric work, there’s an opportunity to retain the best parts of office culture while freeing ourselves from bad habits and inefficient processes, from ineffective meetings to unnecessary bureaucracy. Every leader believes they can do better, and things can move faster: this is their chance.’

Stewart Butterfield: CEO and co-founder, Slack BBC Worklife

Finally, a significant number of people work and are involved in the events/conferencing/meeting space. It has always formed a part of how we interact and communicate in business.

24 months ago you would have to search hard to find event organisers who had the skill and experience of producing quality virtual events but in the last two years that pool of suppliers has grow exponentially. But are they all now starting to pack up their virtual bags and start focusing back on real world live events? I suspect not because well run events can enhance the delegates experience and at the same time bring benefits to the organisers that aren’t accessible at live events.

We have been involved in a number of highly successful virtual events and have seen how these can add to the experience, but we still believe that face-to-face events add something to the mix and we don’t foresee a world where they cease to be.

The future surely is one of hybrid events. For those prepared to undertake the cost and time commitment of attending in person these events will be run, but organisers can significantly extend their reach by hosting the event virtually alongside the live one. For every person prepared to be there on the day how many would be prepared to visit virtually, one, two, ten? And remember the marketing data you can obtain from virtual events is off the scale compared to live events.

I’m sure there are many other issues that will need to be addressed as business adapt and move forward but that feels like enough for us to be getting on with for now.

If you are interested in holding a virtual or hybrid event why not contact us to talk about your requirements.

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