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Workplace Consultancy and the Great Lockdown of 2020

Posted on Thu, 2020-05-07 08:44 by Chris Carr

If only we’d known just how easy it was, we’d have done this a lot sooner.

But we sort of did. We just chose not to work from home in great numbers. At SPACE we had the technology. We had the trust from our superiors and the correct level of autonomy. We just didn’t connect the dots.

The reason many of us within SPACE didn’t work from home was because home is home and work is work and I suspect we wanted to keep them physically separate. There’s also the social and community aspect of going to a location where there are friends and colleagues. And someone else is paying for the heating.

Nothing that a workplace consultant does in the office technically cannot be done from home as has been proved during the past 7 weeks, though being able to shift your chair over and ask a question of a colleague will always be far more preferable to a Teams call. We generate, collate and analyse data. We interpret and report back. We engage with and present to clients. This is overwhelmingly done on their patch, with only occasional real need to be in our own office.

Before lockdown a project programme for a Glasgow-based client was put together. It included a certain amount of engagement with their staff (interviews and workshops) with the ultimate goal of generating a spatial requirement for a proposed new workplace.

Then came Covid-19 and it blew the programme out of the water. The client was approached with the suggestion that we could significantly progress the project through virtual meetings and e-mails. Thankfully they agreed. There was no opportunity to visit their existing offices, but then again, with the ultimate goal being a spatial requirement, was there any real need to see their old ways of working and their dated working environment?

Two Teams meetings with two senior contacts, a handful of e-mails back and forth and a Teams workshop feedback session were sufficient to allow the project to generate sufficient space data for the client to, with a degree of confidence, start looking at what the market had available in terms of office space. All done virtually, with no delays caused by our inability to sit in the same room.

In the survey we carried out recently with clients, a respondent said that virtual meetings were proving to be more time efficient as agendas were being stuck to and there was less ‘preamble’ time. Could Covid-19 spark the beginning of a two-tier service that we as consultants offer – the full-service option or a more time-efficient, express- / virtual-model? For some situations, the latter might just be acceptable.

A word of caution though. As the image above shows (and chosen specifically since May 4th was this week) the client cannot expect the left-hand image when they are paying for the centre image. And also, if the client thinks they can do it themselves, they might just end up with the right-hand image.

Virtual workplace consultancy. It’s the real thing.

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