February 3, 2021

Building Innovative + Resilient Cities in the Age of COVID

How does the Future of Cities look? Last week’s virtual discussion with world-renowned urbanist, Richard Florida, shed light on how cities all across the world are gearing to a better tomorrow and ways businesses can nurture the shift and share in the prosperity. We hit on so many interesting points: the meteoric rise of the remote workforce, the need for cities to focus on amenities and activities to attract a new breed of workers, how businesses can better connect to social and environmental initiatives. We even talked about ways Austin business leaders can take the finger off the COVID pause button and revolutionize a new way of doing business. 

That got us thinking. Since when is solving for change a revolutionary way of doing business? And why is this instance so challenging? In our history, there is example after example of natural and human-made disasters and, yes, even pandemics, from which we have learned and evolved. So, what is it about COVID that continues to freeze us in our tracks, scrambling to solve for what’s next?  

As we discussed in the forum, the remote workforce was already on an upward trajectory; the pandemic only served to accelerate its flight—the positive vibe around the how, when, and where worker is not a quarantined-induced light bulb moment. The business landscape may be changing, but people will never stop wanting and needing human connection, and technology will always be the key to the future. COVID should be a pivot and produce moment, but we continue to scratch our heads around how to get back to business. 

So how does this all relate to the thinking around the workspace? Well, for one, the demise of the office is greatly exaggerated. Like cities in California and New York, who continuously solve for change by reinventing themselves, so should be the theory behind space and work itself. To be a work-from-work office that leverages a hybrid workforce, you have to rethink your space to be the nucleus of your business that can connect the here, there, and everywhere worker to your business’s greater purpose. In other words, reimagine your space, so it is a connected, collaborative environment that works when and how people work.  

It’s not as hard as everyone is making it out to be. It’s a three-step proposition that focuses on processes, and solutions that promote health, wellness and productivity.  

Reallocation of Space

People love to try to put numbers to space, but that’s the wrong approach. The first question you need to ask is why. What is your business need? How do your people work best? The hybrid workforce requires more shared and collaborative spaces, so it’s really about leveraging the right configuration of heads down and heads together spaces, the right technology, the right processes and of course a vibrant, comfortable, people-centric space that brings the energy.     

Health and Wellness Focused Initiatives

The soft costs associated with health and wellness initiatives are now hard truths we have to bring to the forefront of our business approach. A hybrid environment lends itself to more comings and goings, so a data-driven approach using sensors and analytics and processes can optimize healthy spaces to keep people productive.    

HR Must Be the Hero 

The hardest part about all of this, is that this new shift requires new processes and new policies. Who gets to stay at home? Who comes backWhat does the flow and schedule look like?   There are defined terms already in motion around hoteling, hot-desking, hybrid worker, agile worker, and the list goes onThis pivot to the new worker requires thoughtful planning with both facilities and human resources so those positions must be savvy, methodical and organized.>>

 

The workspace is still the hub of business, but since the pandemic hit, we’re spending more time and energy finding ways to stay away than trying to get back in and leverage its power.  That has to stop. We have to stop waiting for the prescription to return to work. This is a change event and Austin business leaders know how to solve for change. And SKG definitely knows how to solve for space. Sowhat are we waiting for, let’s get back to work and move this city to the future. 

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