Reinventing the Office by Simon Burrage, 24th August 2020

Of all the learnings to be taken from this pandemic, the radical reassessment of  ‘where’ and ‘how’  we spend our time, is squarely back at the top of the agenda, right where it belongs.

For those who decide that their teams have clearly flourished in a remote culture, there really is no going back because if the merits have clearly outweighed the flaws, then, why would you?  For many however,  there is still a palpable need for a physical connection with the company you represent,  the people you work with, and the customers you work for.

Cloud Collaboration tools are being leveraged (for real this time) and showing what can be accomplished but let’s be honest, back-to-back Microsoft Teams  or Zoom meetings don’t pass for a company culture, any more than walking around on the same bit of carpet at the office represents productivity.

So, where does that leave the traditional role of the office?

Whatever side of the fence you sit, there are some pretty big questions to ask, particularly regarding ‘what’ an office is used for and ‘why’.

Many businesses are very unlikely to retain all the building, equipment and operational costs, when such a large number have proven that they can flourish without an expensive infrastructure merrily burning budget in the background.

As with any decision, it’s not ‘what you do’ but ‘how you do it’. That answer cannot be simply defined by outside events but comes through understanding your business, industry and challenges; experience absorbed osmotically through your peers and viewed through the learning lens of the last six months.

And that’s where you have to feel for the IT and Property guys who are facing some pretty tough decisions.   Large sweaty infrastructure, originally positioned for convenience looks embarrassingly superfluous in empty or semi-populated buildings (particularly with almost every employee leveraging cloud-based solutions from ‘anywhere but’ the office).

On the other hand, you could say IT departments are now in a position of unique ‘empowerment’ to further suggestions and plans at a time when the business is likely to be far more receptive to cost saving and change.

In particular, if people can leverage technology from wherever they are and with operational costs facing unrelenting scrutiny, then surely the time has come to challenge why so many infrastructures and IT departments are still shoe-horned into the very same buildings we’re looking redefine – moving forward, it simply doesn’t make sense.

For as long as I can remember, Ark has enabled businesses to work from anywhere in the world and as a consequence, the ‘role of the office’ has always been up for debate; simply because it comes a very distant second to empowering businesses and people.

These last few months, it seems that same ethos is spreading, albeit through necessity – IT departments are rising out of the back offices and actively illustrating what can be achieved when given the freedom and flexibility to focus on what really matters.

I imagine they’ll have no desire to go back to spend their days, sat next to the very infrastructure that they’ve proven can flourish without geographical restraint – and neither should they.

Now it has enjoyed its moment in the sun, those conversations should mean that the technology which has helped us ride the eye-of-the-pandemic storm, no longer needs to live in the closets and broom cupboards of expensive buildings, any more than people need to be in the same room to be productive.

If the writing really is on the wall for the traditional workplace, then let’s create some new rules that make sense and lose those which have held many businesses back, for far too long.

We know that both people and technology need an environment where they can be allowed to thrive, so if we’re to move forward, neither can or should be contained.

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