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Seven myths about the post-crisis workplace

Herman Miller’s workplace specialist, Bertie van Wyk, sheds some light on some common myths dragging down your workplace strategies.

01/02/2021 3 min read

Distributed ways of working aren’t new, but they’ve been accelerated by the pandemic. Whether you love it or hate it, some of these practices will change the way we work forever. But as we look toward building our work lives back better, it’s important for us to ditch the assumptions and make smart, data driven decisions. Only then can we ensure that we keep our workforce healthy, happy and connected. 

1. The office is dead

Removing staff access to offices can greatly damage organisations as people expect their organisations and workplaces to foster culture and community. Gallup states that close work friendships boost employee satisfaction by 50% and people with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to engage fully in their work. GWA’s Global Work from Home Experience Survey showed that employees preferred to work from home 2-2.5 days a week.

2. Offices will now be designed for collaboration only

We know from Leesman’s 800,000+ global respondents that offices designed for collaborative work only greatly underperform in allowing people to do productive work. A day in the office to work with others will most likely also consist of time for you to do head-down focused work. Just as online collaboration moved into our allocated working from home days, so too should we cater for uninterrupted focused work when we are in the office.

3. Everyone can/wants to work from home permanently

We can’t assume that everyone has the same home working experience. There is a mammoth 12-point difference in the home working experience (H-Lmi) between having a dedicated work room/office and a non-specific home working location (like a sofa). Not to mention the family members, multiple housemates or other distractions you might have to deal with. Going into an office gives us that social connection that reconnects us to our organisations and our sense of purpose, even if it’s just 1-3 days a week.

4. The office has no impact on WFH preferences

The majority of employees who worked in high performing office buildings pre-pandemic prefer to go back to the office, where the majority of employees from low performing office buildings prefer to work from home permanently. This is clearly an indicator to show that the office experience is not equal and that those who invest in their workspace clearly reap the benefit.  

5. It is sustainable not going to the office

Electricity and heat production are responsible for 25% of the global greenhouse gas emissions. When staff decide not to go into the office, all the output for the office and public transport stays the same, but greenhouse gases increase due to the additional production of gas and electricity to heat homes or boil kettles.

6. Technology is the silver bullet for collaboration

In the first lockdown, we scurried to fill our calendars with never-ending video calls. Suddenly we were reliant on shiny, new technologies to keep us connected and collaborative. Without the proper training, however, the technology designed to help has become a hindrance – Zoom fatigue is through the roof and multiple platforms, all tracking your activity, have created a new type of digital presenteeism. In reality, technologies should allow employees to become more unsynchronised – working at a time that suits them, with performance measures based on output (rather than how many video calls they’ve attended, or Asana boards they’ve checked off).

7. My physical health is looked after when working remotely

The Institute of Employment Studies homeworking wellbeing survey reported that, in the first lockdown in the UK, 58% of people complained of new neck pain. We moved into home working with many still hunched over laptops. How you sit today will affect your body forever. You simply can’t be working from your bed or sofa for a whole day. When working remotely, we need to ensure that the monitor or laptop is at the correct height (eyebrow level) and that we are policing our postures to ensure we never slouch, keeping our heads directly over our spines.

Conclusion

People can be productive working elsewhere, but offices still provide value as on-demand resources for individuals and teams. To remain relevant, offices of the future will need to build culture and community, support individual focus, and facilitate intensive teamwork. The work from home experience is different for everyone. Companies should strive to help people stay healthy and productive, no matter where they are working.

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