With the rise of telework due to Covid-19, many professionals have expressed a desire to continue teleworking and envision the workplace of the future to be more flexible. On the other hand, the experience of working remotely has reminded people of the importance of working together in a shared space for better communication and teamwork.
Given this context, the primary function of the post-pandemic office is expected to shift from a place to work to a place for fostering innovation and collaboration. While the role of office space will change, this article highlights the benefits of coming to the workplace and provides tips on how to maximise the value of the office.
Before the existence of the Internet, documents had to be exchanged in-person and the office was where people primarily worked. But as technology progressed, digital documents replaced hard copies as the norm and the need for meeting face-to-face decreased with the widespread use of email and cloud sharing services. However, even with technological advancements, telework did not quite manage to take root in Japan.
One of the primary reasons behind the failure of telework to catch on in Japan is the country’s unique membership-based employment system. Under the membership-based system, a sense of belonging to the organization is highly prioritised and is developed over the long term through job rotations and internal transfers. It was commonplace for employees to gather at the office in order to physically feel a sense of belonging.
With Covid-19, however, more companies have introduced telework to protect their employees’ health and the number of people who work remotely has increased. A growing number of company employees wish to see telework remain as a standard option in the future. Some of the reasons why they favour telework include the ability to focus better on their tasks, reduced commuting and travel time and the ability to work at their own pace.
That is not to say that telework isn’t without its disadvantages. Some employees have expressed that working remotely has made it more difficult for teams to work together. In some cases, the use of e-mail and chat instead of face-to-face communication has led to inefficiencies in communication.
Telework has also reduced the number of casual, non-work-related conversations. One of the reasons behind this decline is that people hesitate more to seek advice or approach their team members because it's more difficult to know whether they are busy or not. Being unable to see the other person physically presents more hurdles to check or exchange opinions through online communication tools.
While working from home is ideal for tasks that require concentration and can be accomplished individually, face-to-face communication in the office is smoother for tasks that require collaboration and teamwork. Furthermore, knowledge sharing and exchanging of ideas, which often occur in face-to-face interactions, are also critical to a business’s success.
In light of these advantages and disadvantages, the office of the post-pandemic era will be valued as a place that facilitates face-to-face communication. Below are two examples of ideas of what kind of preparation and initiatives can help organisations utilise their office space effectively.
While it is difficult for all employees to gather during Covid-19, it is possible to encourage face-to-face interactions among small groups in a safe manner. For example, some offices provide a well-ventilated open space equipped with sofas, benches, and coffee tables that can be used for a change of scenery. Such spaces can create opportunities for conversations even among people who belong to different departments and do not talk on a daily basis.
To take full advantage of the collaboration and innovation that occurs when people are physically present together in the office, we recommend creating a space that is conducive to sharing ideas. Placing a large co-working table in a well-ventilated area and limiting the number of occupants at a given time are some measures to maintain a safe social distance when holding discussions or brainstorming sessions.
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