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Employee Experience, Corporate Real Estate Strategy, Workplace strategy, data - 12 min read

COVID-19 leads to the largest working from home experiment in history

Marcel Lamers March 19, 2020

Pretty much the entire working population is currently experiencing the impact of COVID-19 on their day to day work routines. The impact of the pandemic on the workplace is significant. Most companies apply policies to protect their employees and the health of the general public by letting people work from home until further notice. Big changes are coming into reality and life as we know it is disrupted. But this is also a time full of opportunities and a chance to rethink the way we work for good.

We have the infrastructure to survive COVID-19 

A few decades have passed since the internet has connected companies and people around the globe. And only in the last decade or so the bandwidth has opened the world for advanced tools at scale - such as video conferencing - that act as replacements for physical meetings. The past decade saw the rise of online shopping and delivery at our homes for almost every article sold across the world. And since a few years fresh groceries can be ordered online and delivered all the way into our kitchens. Food created by the best restaurants is delivered at our front door through various apps available on our phones. This has only been the case for such a short period of time. Imagine the impact of COVID-19 if all of these convenient services were not available to us.

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The current state of technology and services provide significant advantages in our battle against COVID-19. In these times where large parts of our population are forced to stay at home - we have an infrastructure that allows us to continue most of our daily practices while practicing social distancing. We’re not disrupted completely; we are resilient and many businesses can reduce the economical impact on their businesses by embracing the available tools.

Changing a workplace strategy to one where working from home is the norm, requires a cultural and mental change. We are now forced to do so, and everything is in place to make it succeed. 

Companies that already had remote working processes and tooling in place, might not experience much friction in this transition. Others are forced to quickly implement these. They can use the current momentum to streamline these processes as well. Whilst some changes are obvious, time will tell how big the impact of the virus on the workplace is. Even though these are uncertain times, they provide a unique opportunity to learn.

COVID-19 forces us into the largest working from home experiment the world has ever seen.

The data and insights that will be gathered on how people work remotely across the globe has the potential to leapfrog our world into successful working from home concepts for good. We’re in the middle of the largest working from home experiment the world has ever seen. This is the time to learn how our businesses are actually impacted by such measures. It’s vital to collect both quantitative and qualitative data to fully understand the impact and especially - to learn how your business can profit from this in the future.

Keeping track of business KPI’s to understand what exactly is causing an increase or decrease in business and cash flow is key. Looking closely at every step in your business processes and identifying delaying factors allows you to adjust. While some companies already apply working from home concepts, others were still not convinced and afraid of the unknown effect on the business outcome. We are now forced into a working from home situation, so the only thing we can do is tackle those challenges that prevent our business from growing to make doing business remotely beneficial to our companies.

Employee wellbeing
Employee wellbeing and productivity are two of the most critical factors that will be impacted at this time. Whilst in theory, most work can be done remotely, this time presents a unique opportunity to understand what role the office actually plays in the social, informal structure of the company. At the same time, it’s pretty obvious that a lot of people miss the coffee machine chats, or lunch walks with colleagues.

As working from home drastically reduces the time to commute, people will now have time they would otherwise waste travelling to spend with their family and on leisure activities. How will this impact their wellbeing and productivity? What if their productivity actually rises? What if they feel better and are more satisfied now that they don’t have to waste hours per week in traffic? Once again this is a unique opportunity to learn from the effects of working from home at scale.

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How we handle it
Keep track of employee wellbeing. Talk with each other and gather data. Although social distancing is the norm; we remain social beings and can easily miss the office buzz. Therefore staying connected is key. To give you an example, at Lone Rooftop we’ve implemented the following measures to keep everyone connected:

  • Daily standup call with the entire team. We use this call for a quick round of important updates (both COVIDovid-19 and business related) that are important to everyone. Goal is to keep this call to a max of 10 minutes.
  • Friday virtual drinks. We all dial in from our home offices and share this moment jointly to close off the week. We just don’t want to miss our friday drinks!
  • We chat online using slack, meet each other in google hangouts meeting rooms and play online games. It’s important to keep our culture and interactions alive in these times - and we’re happy to experience that the current state of technology allows us to do so. 

How can we make the most of this situation? 
The Covid-19 crisis is prioritized by most of us at this time, but a side effect of working from home appears to be beneficial to one of our other crises: climate change. With reduced carbon dioxide emissions - we can enjoy higher air quality and achieve sustainability goals.

When it comes to Corporate Real Estate, there are many opportunities to optimize buildings by applying learnings from the COVID-19 situation. From saving on energy consumption and services, to decommissioning floors or maybe entire buildings and saving resources that could potentially be invested in optimizing the workspace at home. Whatever measures will be taken, and whatever changes we will make to our office; it is vital to inform these decisions with space utilization data. My colleague Tim Bloemer recently published an article on how to do that, find it through this link.

Stay safe!
We understand that some companies face more urgent challenges. Challenges that can not be solved easily because they require physical contact or are heavily dependent on other impacted factors. For those entrepreneurs and their employees in these tough times: hang in there!

Learning from this situation is interesting for all the reasons above, but most important is to stay safe during this crisis. Take care everyone and keep an eye out for the people around you!

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Marcel Lamers

As CEO and Founder of Lone Rooftop Marcel has a strong passion to optimize how we use and interact with office buildings around the world.