Many of us were surprised how smooth the transition to remote work actually was. We learned that many tasks can actually be done efficiently from home. We do not need to be permanently in physical contact with our colleagues, as long as we know what has to be done. Regular planning meetings and short individual updates using phone and/or video calls as well as instant messaging worked just fine. The more creative tasks became, however, the more difficult it is to work on them remotely. Even though our experience has shown that we can conduct creative sessions - such as design thinking workshops - online, the experience is really not the same. The magic still happens when people meet in person, when they are together in an inspiring place and collaborate in a visual and instant mode. Indeed, it was meeting our colleagues and engaging in profound exchange that most of us really missed - not the office and certainly not the daily commute.
The question for organisations is thus no longer “if” they allow home office, or more generally remote working, but “how much” of it makes sense and “what for” it is suitable. This is what we need to re-negotiate as teams and organisations. We need to innovate our way of working. The key question for us to answer is accordingly: How do we want to communicate and collaborate in the future? And it makes sense to start answering that question now. Why? On the one hand, the window of opportunities is wide open. Most of us have not yet fully returned to the office and the experience of working remotely is still fresh. On the other hand, and more importantly, the answer(s) to this question will lead to an intense transformation involving the redefinition of values, processes and spaces. No doubt that this transformation will take time and we all know that an inspiring vision and a profound “why” is key to the success of any transformation journey.
It is the senior management team - before all from HR, IT and facility management - that has to take the lead in answering this question, as it has far reaching consequences concerning all organisational domains. Organisations need to talk about people, processes and places as well as topics at the intersections of these domains: skills & competences, the virtual & physical tradeoff and, very importantly, organisational identity. Of course, these aspects are not new and even before the pandemic were long part of every strategy. Their importance and characteristics, however, have fundamentally changed. Thus we need to review our strategies, set new priorities and redefine our roadmaps with a mindset that the new normal of today keeps on developing tomorrow.