While there may have been a Labor Day bump in return to office occupancy, rates have remained steady, and a variety of data indicate “where” we work patterns appear to be stabilizing somewhat. Hopefully, we can now move beyond RTO/hybrid limbo and start to answer these important questions:
- How are team-based decisions about “where” people will work best being made?
- Is the work (what we need to do) or the where/location leading these decisions?
- Do these decisions reflect the core values of the organization? (Read last week’s newsletter on why this matters.)
- When (hours) are employees working?
- How are they using technology to enable efficient communication, coordination and collaboration while working flexibly?
- And, have processes, such as meetings, scheduling and onboarding, been reimagined and updated to support, or be supported by, new work patterns?
- Do managers and teams have the skills and tools needed to flexibly work with strategic, coordinated intention?
- Do individuals have the skills and tools they need to flexibly fit their work and life together in a way that considers their needs and the needs of the business?
“The office” is a location. It’s ONE enabler of work, and will continue to play an important, albeit reimagined, role, but it’s not the work itself.
Optimizing flexibility to achieve high levels of performance and well-being requires three stages that leaders, managers, and employees need to be trained to execute:
Stage 1 – Define: Use of a CONSISTENT PROCESS (not a policy) to define the unique “how, when, and where” guardrails within which the organization as a whole and individual teams will operate based on the work that needs to get done.
Stage 2 – Operate: Actively plan and coordinate the work, day-to-day, within those flexible operating guardrails.
Stage 3 – Review and Recalibrate: Evolve the guardrails and flexible way of operating as realities and needs change. Because flexibility is never “done.” It’s a continuous loop of improvement and innovation.
More on the role of the office and occupancy rates
Just as work has as fundamentally changed since the start of the pandemic, so has the role of the office. This was a topic I explored with Ryan Anderson, VP Global Research and Insights at MillerKnoll on a recent “Looking Forward” podcast episode (link includes audio and transcript links). Give it a listen or a read if you haven’t yet.
Understandably so, there’s a lot of interest in office occupancy data. But we must remember, pre-pandemic office occupancy was not 100%. Check out my twitter feed for this interesting exchange as Nick Bloom and I try to understand the 100% occupancy on the ‘Y” axis of the often-cited Kastle occupancy barometer: