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It’s been more than seven months since the WHO recognized the spread of COVID-19 as a pandemic back in mid-March. Since that time, many of us have shared some new realities. We now know what it is like to be ordered locked-in at home and from work. We now know what it is like to have our daily routines uprooted and to be faced with new obstacles. We now know the good, the bad, and the ugly. At Real Strategy Advisors, we’ve been having conversations with everyone from senior executives of large organizations, workplace planners in the public service, as well as smaller mom and pop shop owners, and a couple of themes seem to be emerging.

“The pandemic has accelerated everyone’s thinking…” — Allan Wille (Co-Founder and CEO, Klipfolio)

First off, let’s review some of the insights that came out of the CNW Group/KPMG LLP poll back in August to get our bearings. That survey found that 94% of Canadians believed COVID-19 to be “far from over” and 83% are worried about getting or transmitting it. With respect to the workplace, more than half of people said they are afraid to return to the physical workplace and that British Columbia and Ontario are the provinces that exhibit this fear the most. Six in ten people say they’ll refuse to return to the physical workplace if they don’t feel safe. The same majority (64%) would also feel better about going back if they’re kept up-to-date on health risk levels in real-time and are given the proper resources.

Focusing on remote work, the survey showed that just over three-quarters of Canadians are satisfied with their work-from-home setup with almost three-fifths claiming to be more productive. This good news is tempered however by an equal number of people saying that relationships with their colleagues are suffering. Seven in ten Canadians do prefer in-person as the best form of communication and three quarters say in-person meetings are paramount in building successful long-term business partnerships. In a conversation with Allan Wille, Co-Founder and CEO of Ottawa-based software company Klipfolio, he remarked on this dichotomy experienced by employees:

“For some, the work from home environment is not ideal or the type of work requires more whiteboard collaboration and creativity. For others though, it has provided more time during the day and an ability to truly focus on the task at hand.” — Allan Wille (Co-Founder and CEO, Klipfolio)

Given the current circumstances, virtually all organizations that use physical office space have reached the preliminary conclusion that they may have too much of it. So what does this mean for offices going forward? If the majority of office employees are working from home roughly half of the time, then the old benchmark for allocating space based on the number of full-time staff is outdated. Instead, we will have to come up with new metrics based on average and peak period populations that will have a need for space.

What will drive this transition is the expense of carrying too much suddenly vacated space. We can also surmise that if people are working from home at that rate, they’ll want to come into the office for the face-to-face interaction and collaboration components, during crunch times, or to do the heavy concentration type of work that their chaotic home environment might not be suited to. A couple of questions arise from this revelation:

  • How to decide which employees get a dedicated desk/seat and are we ready for desk sharing?
  • What does the new ratio of physical space per person look like?
  • Will functional layouts need to change in terms of planning space?

In this series, Real Strategy will seek to answer these questions by going over the results from our own recently released survey as well as interviews with relevant industry experts — stay tuned for these insights. Contact Real Strategy Advisors today so we can have a discussion surrounding your organization’s working from home views and overall policy. We’ll use real data from your company to come up with a solution customed tailored to your needs!

Please click here to read Part 2: https://realstrategy.com/25-drop-in-office-demand-or-more-office-transformation-covid-19/