You’re Going Back to the Office. Here Is What Your Day Might Look Like.

When you’re about to go back to work after a vacation, the last thing you want to do is sit in an office all day. You’re looking forward to spending time with your family on weekends and then having the luxury of going to the beach on your vacation days. But you’re going back to work, and you’re at least a little bit nervous. Here’s a peek at what your day might look like.

You’re going back to the office. Here’s what your day might look like.

6am Monday morning somewhere in America, and office worker Jane Q has her alarm clock wake her up. She’s tempted to hit the snooze button. But she knows that if she does, she might miss out on a job with a view of the city.

As a hypothetical human in most parameters, Jane is exceptional because she comes from the future – months before us. The changes that will soon affect our lives at work and in the office, both culturally and technologically, have already become a daily reality.

Many of these tools, such as workplace management applications and digital whiteboards, have been around for years. But like the video communications technology that helped American home workers survive the pandemic, these technologies are only now becoming available. The list also includes newer, more experimental technologies, such as 360-degree cameras in meeting rooms and touchless check-in systems for employees.

For some of us, the sum total of these small changes will mean a profound break with the past.

Battle for places

6:02 PM While scrolling through her colleagues’ Slack messages around the world in the evening, Jane discovers an app that lets her know where she’ll be working tonight….. And with whom… And about what.

In a recent survey of executives by consulting firm West Monroe, 67% said they plan to implement a hybrid work model by summer, which means being able to work in the office some days and at home others. But this simple binary formulation – home or office – does not do justice to the complexities that many employees face today.

Some companies are renting co-working spaces on the outskirts of cities where they had or will have their headquarters, says Jamie Hodari, CEO of Industrious, a startup that partners with landlords to offer office space and competes with WeWork. These employers recognize that employees have different needs on different days of the week, month or quarter, depending on their team and job responsibilities. Some moved to a more distant suburb or didn’t like the commute at all.

TheEnvoy application allows returning employees to reserve workstations.

Photo:

Messenger

Now every company is forced to ask the question: What do employees want?

One of the keys to workplace flexibility is an app developed by companies like Robin, Salesforce, Envoy and Proximity that allows employees to reserve workstations and other resources, and their employers to know where they are each day. Some have long been used to assign positions to employees on a first-come, first-served basis – a policy known as hot desking or hoteling – to save money.

Cooperation problem

6:10 : Jane, who runs a small design team, requests a set of tables by the windows for her team before they go to accounting. Not only is the light good here, but it’s far from the little kitchen where Greg from Data Science sometimes cooks fish in the microwave.

Of course, many executives are trying to get their employees back in the office five days a week, including the CEO of Netflix.

Reed Hastings,

of telework as negative, and

Jamie Dimon,

JPMorgan’s CEO, who expects nearly all of the bank’s employees to return to work full-time. Among the skeptics of hybrid working are those who believe that companies should choose to work either entirely in the office or entirely remotely.

If you have a meeting and there are five teleworkers and as many attendees, that means a two-tiered system where it’s more about what’s in the room, says Chris Hurd, CEO of Firstbase, a company that provides teleworkers with the furniture and hardware they need.

On the other hand, Apple’s CEO

Tim Cook

noted that some things work better virtually, and Google has announced that almost all employees will only have to go to the office three days a week.

Many companies have now realized not only that their offices are rarely full, but also that these offices need to be redesigned to meet the needs of the people who want to go there – especially to work together. And the apps and cloud services they turn to are starting to adapt to this new world, adding features beyond just sharing workspace for a day.

This is what office life looked like. Employees sit side-by-side at a technology company in San Francisco, months before the Covid 19 pandemic dramatically changed the workplace.

Photo:

Kelsey McClellan for The Wall Street Journal

For example, employees will soon be able to use the Envoy app to invite colleagues to specific days, says Alex Hefner, director of products for the company. Employers can already use the app to designate parts of the office as blocks that will be occupied by certain teams on certain days.

This new flexibility for employees comes at a price, Hefner adds. Conflicts over who uses what part of the office on what day must be resolved, and managers must ensure that staff do not exploit the system, for example by reserving office space and not using it. Companies that are downsizing or redesigning their office space for greater collaboration may need to engage in data-driven capacity planning and manage available office space and meeting rooms like any other scarce resource in their budget.

Conquering the common room

8 h 20 : After drinking coffee from

Starbucks,

After using the app and picking it up at the nearest store, Jane is ready to get to work. Like millions of other Americans, she takes a shared electric scooter.

During the pandemic, public transportation systems experienced a historic decline in passenger volume. For those who don’t like crowded subways with hundreds of strangers, the option of micromobility is becoming increasingly attractive, especially in big cities.

For cities, the political perception of micromobility before the pandemic was as follows: What a nuisance. How do you stop it? – says Horace Dediu, an industry analyst who coined the term for bikes, scooters and mopeds rented through apps. But during the pandemic, he adds, that picture changed as acceptance increased, especially as overall throughput declined. It was the only way to get around in many cities, and the visibility was incredible.

Share the air

9:00 Jane arrives at her desk and flashes the QR code on her phone for the scanner. The same service that allows him to choose a table is also connected to access to the building.

The humble QR code, a 30-year-old technology, is suddenly everywhere and widespread due to the pandemic. It has become a way to consult menus and order restaurants, a way to work with

PayPal

in over 600,000 stores, a key element of outdoor advertising and a means of checking in to hotels.

When employees walk into a flexible workspace in the morning, they may not know that it’s not just other employees who worked in that space the night before, but people from a completely different company. Some companies view work as a service, meaning they only pay for the desks they use on a given day.

For example, New York-based lingerie company Thinx offers its employees a monthly stipend that can be used to cover the cost of a home office or co-working space, according to a company spokesperson.

In April, workers in none of the industries surveyed in North America returned to the office more than two days per week on average.

Average number of days per week in the office for selected industries

Transport and logistics

Media and telecommunications

Transport and logistics

Media and telecommunications

Transport and logistics

Media and telecommunications

While these shared spaces seemed scary a few months ago, we now know much more than we did at the beginning of the pandemic about whether shared spaces are potential vectors for airborne diseases like Covid-19. One of the most important elements is a sufficient air flow to ventilate four to six rooms or buildings per hour. This goal can be achieved with technology that has long been available, but only in buildings that meet the Well-Building standard.

Sanjay Rishi, head of corporate solutions for the Americas at real estate firm JLL, says his firm’s broad client base, which includes many of the world’s largest companies, is not seeing a massive trend of companies moving their headquarters to other cities or out of the inner city to the suburbs. For many business leaders, maintaining a downtown headquarters is essential to maintaining a cohesive culture.

It’s about talent, and if you want to attract and retain talent, you have to have a sense of belonging, he adds.

Address to all colleagues

9:30 AM: Jane’s first meeting is in a conference room she booked through her app. An 85-inch 4K TV dominates one side of the room. When some of his colleagues enter the room, the screen fills with the faces of his colleagues, some of whom are connected to the other side of the world.

With Microsoft Teams rooms – or their equivalents from Zoom, Google and other companies – people will be able to communicate from their homes and other remote offices. With one of these systems, everyone can see and hear each other.

Just because they work doesn’t mean they don’t cause headaches. Before the pandemic, people hated face-to-face meetings. Then they hated Zoom’s calls during the lockdown. A third form of procrastination, according to Heard, is face-to-face or remote meetings.

For many companies, it has become a particular concern to ensure that teleworkers – some of whom are still in the office, but not on site – can work on an equal footing with those who are physically present in the office. Google calls this collaborative equity.

10 h 30 : Jane returned to her office. Or at least an office. The rest of their day follows the same pattern: new ways of working together, communicating and working that now seem normal, whereas a few years ago they were totally alien. For them, as for millions of other Americans, work is no longer a place you go, but a business you run.

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Email Christopher Mims at [email protected]

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