Is work someplace we go or simply something we do? The pandemic forced professionals to reimagine what the office should be.
While work is what we do, there’s much debate about where work should or can take place. My professional work journey has taken me from a shared cubicle as a new employee to an office with a window…then, thanks to COVID-19, my kitchen table. Like many professionals, I worked from home during the pandemic.
Published during a time of great uncertainty and widespread remote work, Where is My Office? Reimagining the Workplace for the 21st Century by Chris Kane provides a history lesson and a road map to the future of workspace transformation. Through concrete examples, he illustrates the importance of flexibility, agility, and sustainability in office space and working arrangements. He calls on employers to consider how the workplace can be used to facilitate organizational change while being supportive and attractive to employees of all generations. Most importantly, Kane advocates for utilizing office space as a strategic tool that can provide a strategic advantage.
As finance professionals, we often consider offices as simply a necessary overhead cost to be managed. Smaller or shared spaces save money. Technological advances make remote work easier, giving rise to even greater savings, but having a building-centric mindset can backfire.
The chapter “Six Steps for Harnessing the Links between People and Place” demonstrates the benefits of developing a setting that encourages the behaviors that business enterprises want to foster, arguing that workspaces can drive value and increase, not hurt, the bottom line. Kane doesn’t present a one-size-fits-all model that has the potential of alienating a segment of the workforce. Instead, he encourages a holistic approach to achieve both efficiency and effectiveness.
As managers contemplate employees’ altered expectations after returning to the office, with some continuing remote work and others implementing various hybrid models, they should strive to answer the questions Kane poses in his five-step “Journey to Great Places” chapter. The analogy of a sea voyage, combined with examples from the author’s many years working in commercial real estate, illustrates the principles he has developed in the book. He provides persuasive ideas and practical solutions to creating a post-pandemic workplace that will work for employees, employers, and society as a whole.