We asked Pauline Simpkins, head of facilities management at Historic England, to tackle the topic of the new workplace purpose by answering three key questions: Where are we now, where do we need to get to next – and how do we get there?
The new workplace purpose.
Where are we now?
A staff survey has now confirmed what we suspected: over half of the workforce would like to work from home to some extent in the future.
So what does this mean for the corporate office? Do we rip out desks and install funky collaboration furniture instead? Do we utilise a sophisticated space booking system? For how long do we need to accommodate social distancing, not so much based on government guidance, but based on people’s caution at getting too close? What of its impact on other amenities such as meeting rooms, WCs and kitchens? And, crucially, how can we better support those in their home offices, which has become the largest and most diverse corporate office we have?
Where do we need to get to next?
Facilities management is about people. Understanding how to support colleagues as they return, following what has been for some a profoundly life-changing experience, will be vital.
It will be like the first day at school for some but with any new beginning comes the opportunity for FM to either cement or introduce better ways of working that underpins the ‘hybrid’ model – a hybrid of all of the good parts of working from home, the office or wherever else helps colleagues do their best work and that helps us all reconnect positively, demonstrating the care that we have in FM for their wellbeing, the natural environment, sustainability and the places where they feel a sense of belonging and community.
How do we get there?
I wonder if now is the time to make sweeping changes to the design of corporate offices. Do we really need to introduce yet more change right now?
For me the ‘how’ will involve spending as much time as I can listening to as many colleagues as possible about how they want to feel in the workplace and how they think this could be achieved. Conversations that aren’t dominated by traditional concepts of activity-based working or preconceived solutions for introverts and extroverts. Just listen! I know this can be scary, ask 100 people and get 100 different answers, but so what? There are always some amazing gems in there. Game-changers. Be brave.
The truth is, no one has the answer. Each ‘solution’ will have to be tailored to any given organisation but without listening, we have nothing.