Flexibility – in where and when you work – is just the beginning
By now, each of us in our own way, across the world, has adjusted to these work-from-home setup and operations. For some, it was a welcomed change, something they’ve long coveted but couldn’t seem to convince management of its benefits. Others may have had harder adjustment periods, figuring out how to stay focused and on track when they log in from their living rooms.
What seemed like a fun experiment for some at the start has shifted into a larger cultural conversation of late about whether this way of working is really sustainable for companies or healthy for employees.
Even for those who have settled in nicely, there have been some hiccups and hurdles along the way; just because you suddenly must work from home doesn’t mean that your company was prepared for this necessary step of the pandemic.
Cabin fever – along with a deep longing for life to return to the way it was – is a mental health concern that HR departments are grappling with at an increased rate on behalf of their staffers.
There’s nothing regular about what’s happening right now. Leaders need to rethink, carve out, and implement a new set of rules and policies that will enable teams to thrive during the short term while also feeling supported in the long run.
This is unprecedented territory for all of us. For my team to be fully comfortable with the uncertainty ahead of us, I must lead with empathy and acknowledge how strange this setup is for everyone. Only then, when we’re all on the same page by way of expectations, could we build the new infrastructure together to help get us through these tough times.
We’ve long operated as a business that treats employees as adults with autonomy over where and when they work. We anticipate that more companies will adopt this mentality going forward. If you speak with people over recent weeks about how their work is going, many of them will let you know how much they appreciate being home more often and for longer periods of time with their families.
We expect more employees to be negotiating with their managers for flexibility in their work schedules to permit them to work from home one or two days a week, provided that their work product doesn’t suffer as a result.
The smart bosses will entertain these requests and plan out a path for both sides to succeed. This perk will become more of a norm looking ahead at the future of workforces.
To some degree, this evolution was predictable; it’s the direction we were already heading in, with telecommuting emerging as a viable option. The pandemic merely accelerated what was already an inevitability with the changes we’ve seen over recent decades. Where this seismic shift is yet to take place, though, is with workplaces.
As the topic of flexibility has grown more popular and is granted as far more possible than before, similar discussions have begun between tenants and landlords about workspaces.
Landlords historically don’t want to agree to short-term leases with their clients, fearful that they are too much of a risk otherwise. This is at least in part why so many co-working companies have surged in recent years – many company founders don’t want to be bogged down by five-plus-year leases.
Some companies will decide that office spaces aren’t for them at all. That’s fine and can work for them.
But the vast majority of organizations haven’t been able to seamlessly and diligently match what they had going on before, and will be craving getting back in order at a dedicated office location when it’s deemed safe to. What they’ll find available to them at that time will be novel and innovative: the office spaces they want – along with terms they want.
Jonathan Wasserstrum is founder and CEO of New York-based real estate tech firm SquareFoot