First chapter: The workspaces.

The organization of a teleworking model is one of the most complex steps you can tackle. Because beyond the legal and technological aspects, you will be facing a project to develop the corporate culture of your company. To be successful you need three things: strategy, leadership, and method.

The four pillars of telework management

You will have to manage the phenomenon holistically, that is, addressing all the relevant issues:

  • Workspaces.
  • Technology.
  • Financial aspects.
  • Leaders and employees.

In this article I am going to focus on the first one: workspaces. I will analyze the rest in future chapters.

The creative workplace.

It is clear that you will not need the same square meters of office. You have before you a golden opportunity to reduce the real estate liability of your company. Actually, it’s not just about that. Activity-based, flexible and open spaces are displacing closed cubicles and offices, making people more visible. In short, less but better.

However, you need to keep three key concepts in mind:

  • Open office. The model of spaces in a corporate telework environment (let’s say 50% physical presence) has its challenges. The first is to be able to maintain or increase personal interactions when you have fewer people living together at the same time in the office. It is not easy, because technology tends to bring those who are far closer together and those who are close (whoever has teenagers will know what I mean). Also: Who has not visited offices where people work with their headphones, isolated from the immediate environment.
  • Flexible workplace. You will have to configure the new physical workstation model. The concept of ‘hot table’ (two or more people sharing a desk on different days) is here to stay. But, in parallel, teleworking brings a series of economic obligations for the employer. Covering the expenses related to the performance of their work for the teleworker and doing nothing to finance it entails doubling expenses. Not all companies can afford it. We will refer to this when we address the economic-financial lever.
  • Collaboration and co-creation. In quantitative terms, a teleworking model generates fewer opportunities to promote face-to-face interactions. People are simply spending less time in the office. It’s now more relevant than ever that office design encourages collaboration. In 2019 I had the opportunity to visit various headquarters of important companies in the San Francisco area, such as Airbnb. I was surprised to see how the spaces accompany the mission and objectives of the companies. Everything revolves around the employee experience, networking, collaboration and co-creation. Here we have advanced more in technological interaction (what I call ‘human tech’) than in human interaction (the ‘human touch’).

Beyond the home office.

Teleworking means that people are going to carry out part of their working day outside the company’s facilities. But where? In principle, everything seems to indicate that the most logical place is your home. But it’s not always like this.

On the other hand, it’s not just about sending people home to work. The ‘home office’ requires an adaptation. If you are going to start it now, it is important that you bear in mind the following:

  • The distance work pact. In Spain, the new regulations require that the company and the worker agree in writing where this telework will take place. And if it changes, even if it is temporary, you must modify the written agreement, in advance. A new corset for employers and employees in the development of new ways of working.
  • Concentration at home. Concentration levels can drop at home. In addition to the factors of lack of concentration endogenous to work (email, telephone, internal chats, etc.), there are some factors exogenous to work that can lead to a decrease in productivity (external visits, care of children or dependents , home delivery of purchases, etc.). It is very important that you put emphasis on helping your hardworking people to remain as detached as possible from these factors of lack of concentration.
  • Health and safety. We have been emphasizing ergonomics or psychosocial risks for years. Now, teleworking transfers a part of that corporate responsibility to the homes of working people. It is convenient that you do not abandon them. Consider, as an example, if in your offices you would allow your workers to be in front of a viewing screen of less than 12 inches during an 8-hour day, or if you would do it without giving them a series of guidelines. Remember, for the purposes of prevention, teleworking means that the employer’s obligations are multiplied, at least, by two.

In short, when you approach the telework model in a holistic way, part of the difficulties disappear. As stated in the article ‘Teleworking as a new company culture’, the success of teleworking depends on its being assumed as a company culture rather than as a way of working. And that assumption also involves defining how the offices should be and how the worker is going to develop his function in the new environment.