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The post-pandemic workplace: office culture has already changed

The culture of workplaces will be the defining factor in post-pandemic offices. While it’s anticipated most businesses will take a hybrid approach, providing more flexible working arrangements than pre-pandemic, leadership will be key in ensuring employees remain happy and productive.

With the UK lockdown easing some organisations like Goldman Sachs are calling on all staff to return to the workplace as soon as possible, with chief executive David Solomond stating that working from home was “an aberration that we’re going to correct as soon as possible. I do think that for a business like ours, which is an innovative, collaborative apprenticeship culture, this is not ideal for us. And it’s not a new normal.” However, not all businesses or employees are as keen. 

Other organisations such as Spotify, also known for their innovation, are taking an entirely different approach. From summer, Spotify told Dezeen in a live talk about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on workplace design it will introduce a “work from anywhere” policy, allowing employees to work from home, from the office or from a combination of the two. Head of workplace design and build at Spotify Sonya Simmonds said: “We’ve got a new policy, which is basically [that you can] work from anywhere, which is inclusive to everyone being able to choose wherever they work.” Simmonds explained that Spotify “still see a massive need for the office” but that “we see two camps really. People who want to work from home and people who want to go into the office,” and that spaces need to be created “that mirror the kind of feeling that we’ve got from home so we can choose where we work.”

Staff at one of the U.K.’s largest accountancy firms Grant Thornton are also keen to continue working remotely, with 88% supporting working mostly from home after the pandemic subsides. Some organisations have also used the change to working patterns to cut costs, with HSBC capitalising on the move to homeworking, announcing in February that it was reducing its office space around the world by nearly 40%.

In McKinsey & Co’s Author Talks series, Tsedal Neeley, the Naylor Fitzhugh Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School and expert on virtual and global work, was asked by Eleni Kostopoulos what the return to work looks like and how to get it right. Tsedal stated that employers really need to understand their employees preferences and what they really want and how they want to work, developing a policy that reflects the needs of the workforce. Tsedal also mentions the importance of updating the work culture, “Many people are concerned about the change that remote work might bring to their culture. But the reality is that change has already happened by the sheer fact that we are now operating remotely… So the culture has already changed, and the thing to do now is think about how you will revise or update your culture so that people can thrive in a remote environment and adapt to this new world. Holding on to what was before is how people are going to get in trouble. We need to be forward-thinking, embrace the things that we love, change the things that we don’t, and accept the fact that our cultures as we know them have changed forever.”

Photography: © Hufton + Crow / Spotify’s London office designed by TP Bennett

Sources: 

‘Spotify to make its offices feel more like home as it introduces “work from anywhere” policy’ by Marcus Fairs (Dezeen, 18 March 2021)

‘It will give structure to the day: Goldman Sachs staff return to London offices’ by Rupert Neate (The Guardian, 12 April)

Source: ‘Author Talks: Tsedal Neeley on why remote work is here to stay — and how to get it right’ interview with Eleni Kostopoulos (McKinsey & Co, 22 April 2021)