In previous articles we’ve written about future proofing an office as a means to incorporating new design trends and advancements in the office refurbishment industry as well as trying to ensure a business is ready for growth and changes in staffing etc. and today that is still the case, in fact even more so. In the Covid-19 era it seems a sensible solution to proactively establish the best working environment and to invest in future proofing office so that it can move with the times and circumstances.
In this article we’ll look at how to best make your office workplace flexible and ready to adapt to any given circumstance. When we look at office refurbishments from this point of view we aim to reduce any barriers or limitations to be able to keep on working from the office or from a remote location that can fully interact with the office when the circumstances require it.
So how do you go about future proofing your office? Below we outline some of the tips we would recommend in getting your Kent or London office ready for whatever the future throws at it.
Consider How Well Your Current Office Enables You To Be Future Proof
Start by carrying out an audit or survey of your current office. Ask yourself the following:
- How adaptable is your office setup?
- How easy would it be to make small to significant changes to your layout without causing major disruption?
- Are you setup for individual or team work or a mixture of both and how much change would you need to make if the makeup of your office staff, business projects, processes or circumstances (like Covid-19) meant you needed to make changes to meet business needs?
- If there was another set of circumstances that meant you would had to change the numbers of staff working from the office and those working remotely would you be able to put this in place quickly and efficiently?
- Do you have the right technology in place to enable flexibility in where and how staff work to ensure productivity is not impacted?
- Is your current office space sufficient to enable you to make any required changes that result from any of the questions above?
On completing your audit you’ll need to address any perceived issues which would make it harder for your office to be flexible.
Your Business Processes
Part of the audit should include a review of your business to identify the most important day to day processes you need to carry out. Rather than simply transplanting existing processes to make them work remotely you should review each process and look at putting in place the most efficient and effective way to carry each of them out when office work is possible and during times when working remotely may also be required.
You may want to use this review to look at how you work as a whole e.g. plot out projects and look at what is required throughout a project lifecycle in terms of your office environment. Consider how a project comes together, how and where ideas are generated when you are in the planning phase or when you need to solve issues and how staff collaborate or touch bases with each other throughout a project’s life. Once this is done look at what you’ll need within the office environment and from remote locations to make this work for your business.
As well as helping you to plan for today having process plans in place will also help you make your business future proof as you’ll be able to immediately adapt to circumstances where your “normal” working practices may be disrupted. Although it may be tempting to simply revert to working the way you did before Covid-19 it’s worth using your future proof planning to revise practices and processes as a foundation for a new and improved operating model to leverage the best of both worlds from within the office and from remote working.
Technology To The Rescue
If you find that you’re being held back by your ability to work smarter (and more flexibly) through inadequate or poorly performing tech it’s time to take advantage of the best of modern technological developments which can be part of your office refurbishment and enable businesses to work smarter and more effectively. Technology moves at pace and if you don’t keep on top of it you will be losing out in helping your business to be flexible and future proof.
Your office should be a “smart office” which leverages high-tech integrated systems, software and devices to streamline productivity, connectivity and communication. By having a smart office you benefit in a multitude of ways from building in flexibility and facilitating the choice of where staff work from, be it at the office, at another office location or at home, improving productivity and efficiency, ensuring effective communication and connectivity, keeping ahead (or at least in pace with) your competitors, enabling more efficient time management and processes, as well as attracting and retaining new and current staff.
You may be thinking “that’s not going to be within my budget” but consider the resulting flexibility, efficiency and ROI well implemented technology can afford you. Tech may not be as expensive as you think. Here are some simple solutions to get you started:
- Video conferencing facilities to bring your employees together when needed or to replace in person meetings when staff are working from multiple locations.
- Electronic booking systems for meeting rooms or for desk space so in times when you need to minimise or control the number of staff on site you can do so easily.
- Intelligent lighting and climate control can help control lighting in different areas, turning of lighting where it’s not required (reducing your energy bills) and enabling staff to mute the light in areas where strong lighting is not required e.g. in areas where staff go to relax. The same applies to the heating, ventilation and air conditioning.
- Workplace collaboration software that enables staff to work together even when they’re apart.
Utilising Software and Technology To Provide Support
Given that we’ve had to change the way we work in order to keep staff safe during the pandemic, many managers and business owners will have found it far more difficult and challenging to supervise or provide support to staff working remotely in comparison to office based staff. Remote working comes with a variety of pros and cons for both staff and managers. It can be hard to find the right balance to ensure that work doesn’t start to take over that work/life balance but that the work still gets done efficiently and effectively, no matter the location.
All managers should have training in staff management but in many cases remote working maybe new and something they haven’t had to deal with previously. It can be a steep learning curve for both staff and managers unless the right support, training and technology is available to them.
In order to ensure your managers can support their staff within the office and those working remotely, it’s vital to implement the right coaching to ensure they have the skills they’ll need. This should include effective planning and communication, effective listening skills, dealing with conflict, as well as coaching and development of staff. Having professional leadership, coaching and development training in place will go a long way to addressing staff support during remote working periods.
We touched upon technology in the Technology to the rescue’s previous section and in the case of enabling managers to effectively support workers and monitor productivity you’ll need the right technology in place to enable managers to communicate, collaborate and touch bases with staff both from the office and when working remotely. There are numerous software packages and platforms which are available to businesses to enable them to keep in touch and to project manage. These include but are not limited to platforms like Zoom, Whereby, Slack, Asana, Trello, Roadmap, Tick and Timely. Once you’ve chosen the best software/platform for your business you’ll need to make sure that all staff have access to it and have been trained to use it to its maximum potential.
The Right Office Furniture
You may find that your current office furniture is heavy and cumbersome, making it less than ideal when it comes to flexible working arrangements.
When it comes to flexibility and versatility you’ll want to look at modular furniture. Modular furniture is light and easy to move. It can also be moved around or aside when required enabling you to modify your office layout simply and quickly. Each piece of furniture can be used for multiple purposes and gives you the ability to separate items or combine them when required. It has a smaller footprint so can be fitted into your office space more easily and lets you make the best use of every square foot of space. Modular furniture also enables agile working, a type of working we discussed in a previous article How Agile Office Working Practices Can Help Your Business Respond To Coronavirus.
Health and Well-Being
It’s a topic we’ve covered on a number of occasions but it’s an important topic worth covering again when it comes to making your office future proof. Staff health and well-being are vital for a successful business and their health and well-being should be your top priority. Your staff are the most important factor in whether your business will be future proof. Without good quality staff your business is doomed to failure.
So what does staff health and well-being mean in terms of office refurbishment and in future proofing your office space? Well-being in the context of an office environment is more than just how an office looks. It’s about an office workspace that staff want to work in, are productive in and which promotes health and well-being. This includes:
The use of natural light wherever possible. We know through research that natural light is vital to people’s mental health. Our bodies require it. Mental Health Research UK (MHRUK) estimates that 1 million working hours are lost each year due to seasonal affective (SAD), or winter depression. Dr Laura Davidson says “Employers and educational establishments need to take on board just how important natural light is to good mental health. They have a responsibility to ensure that work and study environments have sufficient windows to flood the building with as much natural light as possible”.
- “Biophilic design” (love of nature) also plays a role in health and well-being as we are hard-wired to prefer and perform better in natural settings. In an indoor environment like an office the easiest way to do that is to bring the outside inside. By including something as simple as plants in your office design, health and wellbeing can be greatly improved. Incorporating direct or indirect elements of nature into the built environment has been demonstrated to reduce stress, blood pressure levels and heart rates, whilst increasing productivity and creativity. The presence of natural elements can also have a significant impact on the creativity and productivity of staff. Plants can also be used as a natural barrier to effectively screen or separate individual workspaces providing effective barriers to both noise and helping to reduce exposure to germs etc while providing privacy for those working in the office.
- Ergonomic office furniture that helps with better posture also improves well-being. From the right office chair to a correctly positioned monitor to a well designed mouse it can all make a difference.
- Getting staff moving can also improve health. The Get Britain Standing website shows that on average people spend 8.9 hours each day sitting in the office. For most people, that’s longer than they sleep. Recent research shows evidence that sitting for longer than 4 hours a day can lead to reduced metabolism, disrupted sugar levels and increased insulin and blood pressure levels which in turn leads to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, depression as well as back pain and muscular problems, irrespective of your level of physical activity! Sitting/standing desks are one solution, another is to encourage staff to move around the office and not to stay in one place by providing activity based work and break out areas.
Using the advice above will allow your business to be future proof, giving you an advantage today and into the future. JBH Refurbishments can help you. We’ve been in business for over 30 years delivering turnkey office design, commercial office refurbishments and office fit out solutions for businesses and organisations throughout London, Kent, Surrey, Sussex and the wider South East. Get in touch via our contact form or calling us on 0333 207 0339.