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Redefining Work – The New Normal

Leadership blog written by Margarete McGrath, Chief Digital Officer, Dell Technologies

The pandemic has forced the adoption of new ways of working. Organisations are redefining and reimagining their work environments and the role of offices in creating safe, productive, happy and secure workspaces for employees.

Before the pandemic, the conventional wisdom had been that offices were critical to productivity, culture and succeeding in the race for talent. But employee surveys suggest that many employees will seek to continue to work from home in the long term.

What’s more, the quick and effective take up of videoconferencing and other forms of collaboration has surprised many – often, the results have been better than imagined.

That said, many of our clients are looking ahead to reopening and the “back to school days” of resetting work agendas. Before a vaccine is available, the office experience is unlikely to return to what it was before the pandemic. The introduction of social distancing, the wearing of face masks, the redesign of physical office space to incorporate social distancing and efforts to contain movement in restricted areas (such as elevators, restrooms, cafeterias etc..) will be introduced across many UK organisations in some capacity.

At Dell Technologies, we are often asked if we see any increase or decrease in productivity with the switch to remote working. The truth goes further than a binary response. It depends on employee and customer satisfaction, wellbeing and productivity and varies greatly across organisations. It is also heavily dependent on organisational culture – the strength of leadership and change management practices including communication and collaboration.

Many employees have enjoyed this new experience; others are jaded by it. Often, the same people have experienced different emotions and levels of happiness or unhappiness at different times. For some, the productivity of employees who do many kinds of jobs in their role has increased; for others it has declined.

The more nuanced question that we need to ask ourselves is how can we take this opportunity to redefine and reimagine how we work? What could the new normal look like?

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. The answer will be different for every organisation and will be based on factors including organisational priorities, culture and talent requirements, delivery models, technology and digital resilience, collaboration levels and where offices are located today and in the future amongst others.

Leading areas for consideration include:

Business Model Change – Reimagining business processes and practices will serve as a foundation of an improved operating model that leverages both in-person and remote work. For some organisations, this pandemic presents an opportunity to pivot to a digital-first delivery model that dramatically changes how and where people work while helping organisations refresh their core purpose at the same time.

This fundamental shift can only be enabled by strategic change management practices that continually pivot alongside strong leadership. A good example of this in the UK is the rise of hyperlocal markets resulting from pressures on supply chains to move towards more local and just-in-time models. For more independent purveyors, this has been a positive shift for their business enabled by online platforms such as Deal Delivers.

Organisational Priorities – Organisations are currently assessing their workforce model to determine which employees can work fully remotely in the future, which ones need to be part of a hybrid remote working model and lastly, which employees will need be on physically sites.

Redefining Digital & Technology Strategy for the long term – Organisations are evaluating their business models to see how they can pivot with the right technology to deliver products and services in new ways. An example of this is how Airbnb recently shifted their business model to respond to the pandemic. Technology has demonstrated its ability to enable us to pivot quickly to new ways of working. For many organisations, this was enabled quickly at the start of the pandemic. Now it is time to do this right by building long-term digital and technology strategies and capabilities aligned to your business and organisational priorities for the new normal.

Resizing Real Estate – A transformational approach to reinventing offices will be required. Instead of adjusting the existing footprint gradually, organisations need to redefine how much space is required – and where. They’ll also need to rethink how space fosters outcomes for collaboration, productivity, culture, and the work experience. A new approach to office space will need to be imagined – which may look very different from today’s set-up – and could yield significant cost savings.

For all organisations, now is an opportunity to break the inertia of old habits, redefine work and create a new normal. A new normal that will be defined by organisational culture, technology and enabled with strong leadership. A well-planned return to the office could see organisations reinvent their role, renew their purpose and create better experiences for employees and customers – all the while improving collaboration, increasing productivity and reducing costs.

June 2020


June 2021