How the World’s Largest Work-from-Home Experiment is impacting Workplace Strategy

Philip Chan
April 8, 2020

Hundreds of millions of people are now participating in the world’s largest work-from-home experiment.

Last week I sat down with Erica Eaton, Chief of Strategy for a mini-webinar to discuss how that experiment is reshaping workplace strategy—and how companies can prepare for a more flexible workplace when we all head back to the office.

Here are the key takeaways, from our home offices to yours:

Flexible working has gone from nice-to-have to imperative.

Today’s real estate leaders face two mounting pressures: to reduce and rationalize costs in the face of an economic downturn, and to create more flexible spaces for employees.

Before COVID-19 hit, Comfy had been working with several clients on activity-based working arrangements. But as eager as real estate leaders have been to implement space utilization design—both as a way to reduce square footage and increase employee flexibility—they faced pushback from traditional business unit leaders who were worried about reduced productivity or poor employee experience. Today’s global WFH experiment puts new pressure on those business leaders to accept a more flexible model.

No one knows exactly what will happen when this global WFH experiment is over. Will we see employees run back to their desks with a new appreciation for the office? Or will more people rebel against the traditional office space now that they’ve had a taste of working from home?

It’ll likely be a mix. But no matter what, companies will require a workplace strategy that adapts to a more fluid, variable workforce.

Companies will need to accommodate social distancing at the office.

As we ease back into the workplace, most companies anticipate needing to accommodate social distancing practices for some period of time. Companies will need to determine (and track against) a new baseline number for occupancy—a new normal—so that offices aren’t unsafely crowded.

Our Comfy clients who still have some essential employees in the office are already doing this, dispersing both people and amenities throughout the space. At the same time, they’re consolidating essential activities to specific floors or parts of the campus to reduce climate control and cleaning costs. We’re also in discussion with clients about how Comfy’s desk booking feature can create restrictions on where people choose to sit, ensuring a safe social distance while in the office.

As companies face tough real estate decisions, good workplace data will be more important than ever.

Comfy gives visibility into key metrics like utilization at the floor, building, and portfolio-level; average and peak utilization; utilization by time of day or day of the week; and least and most popular spaces. Knowing where and when employees are able to follow good social distancing or which spaces are still sitting empty will be crucial to making informed real estate decisions quickly—for instance, whether specific floors or rooms should be opened or closed based on user traffic and occupancy. Having a better understanding of space and amenity usage and occupancy patterns will also help you determine the right schedule and cadence for cleaning as employees return to the office.

Workplace tech plays a key role in keeping employees safe, informed, and productive.

Employees will be hungry for localized, up-to-date info as they return to the office. For example, one of Comfy’s clients has an internal website with information about the latest developments and company policies regarding COVID-19. Now, when employees open the Comfy app, they immediately see a link to this new website at the top of the home screen. Through its configurable design and seamless integration with 3rd party data sources, Comfy enables employers to provide easy, quick access to whatever information, resources, or services they need to stay healthy and productive. This may include things like revised hours for campus cafés, virtual office hours for IT support, how to request WFH supplies, links to local businesses or community organizations to support, a quick launch card to your company’s video conferencing app of choice.

When it comes time to return to the office, there may be some employees who decide to continue working from home, making it hard to know who is in the office at any given time. With Comfy’s Coworkers feature, employees will be able to update their status as “working from home” so it’s clear when they are not in the office. These small pieces of easily accessible information can go a long way in making employees feel empowered during uncertain times.

Interested in listening to the full conversation? Watch the on-demand webinar here.

As the global WFH experiment evolves, Comfy will be hosting more conversations to help companies navigate this new world of work. Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks!

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