I know what I want to do as soon as I am fully vaccinated and the world, at least my world, is back to some relative normality, shops are open and choices abound. I bet you do too. But what about your business? Or the company you work for? Do you know? Do they know?
I want to hug my family, have sushi inside my favorite neighborhood sushi bar, and travel internationally. I want to get back what I always enjoyed but perhaps took a little for granted. And I bet you have your list, as everyone does. It is easy for each of us to make an extensive wish list of things we will do.
But for business, it is not that simple, not that unconstrained and certainly, not that easily manageable. Will your employees want to return to the office? Do you want them to return? Will you move to a smaller office that still accommodates hybrid remote/office work models and flextime?
Business owners, startup CEOs and corporate managers alike have many decisions to make based on business models, competition, workforce desires and capital investments. The workforce dynamic has changed a great deal this past year: most people have adjusted to working from home and prefer it to a commute and office. As many or more want a hybrid model of flexibility between being in the office and working from home. And no one wants to be in the office 10+ hours a day 5+ days a week. The genie has been let out of the bottle and 100% workforce in the office is off the table now. A McKinsey study says 74% of CFOs expect some portion of their employees will be permanently remote, much like several high profile tech companies announced last year. A full one third of employees are expected to never be in the office.
While many workers may not be tied so closely to the physical office, offices for large companies are not bound so much to city centers (and their higher costs). Should a business close its office in the city and open a smaller office in the suburbs, one that accommodates perhaps fewer workers but has the architectural flexibility to provide spacing, conference rooms and roving teams (and at a reduced cost)? Do you get rid of the foosball tables, espresso machines, free lunches and summer Friday afternoons off and route all employee benefits to a personalized list of tangible and intangible choices like free computers, free online yoga classes, mental health therapists and home lunch delivery?
Boston Consulting Group says post-pandemic almost half of all companies will outsource more work than they will do internally. Do you really need an office at all?
Businesses large and small must definitively answer two foundational questions: what new activities will sustain or stop, what old activities will return, or not. Will some workers expect/demand the option to work from home at least part of the time (yes) and will there be a return to the same level of in-person business travel (probably not)? From there, businesses should make a list of each and connect their potential interrelated impacts.
The only certainty for individuals and businesses alike is that some things are permanently changed and some will return as we remember them.
PS-Be sure to look for an announcement on an exciting new client referral program in the next newsletter!