The road back to reality
Ricoh Europe, London, 27 August 2020 – While not as fabled as those leading to Damascus or Rome, the road back to the office is dominating conversations throughout the business hierarchy.
As it should be, individual safety is the number one priority as the business community acts on carefully crafted plans.
From heightened cleaning practices and modified working hours to staggered workspaces and app-based desk booking, there is no shortage of accommodations being made. Demand for thermal cameras has skyrocketed too, with more and more customers turning to Ricoh technology to determine the body temperatures of their returning workforce.
I was recently asked what I miss most about our office in central London – a simple question that is easy to answer. For me, there is no substitute for unplanned interactions. We have all learnt something new about our business, customers or industry when ‘talking and walking’ with a colleague. While the notion of chats by the water cooler seem somewhat passé, impromptu conversations within the office environment often lead to better relationships, ideas and outcomes. Cafeteria and corridor talk can be just as productive as that in the meeting or boardroom.
Analysis from Morgan Stanley’s research unit AlphaWise shows that French companies are leading the way in bringing teams back to the workplace. France has seen 83% of office staff return, followed by 76% in Italy, 73% in Spain and 70% in Germany. At the other end of spectrum, just 34% of UK based workers are reportedly now back in the office.
While I’ve fully appreciated the extra time with family and lack of commute, I’m mindful that not everyone has had the same experience. The social element of working in an office should never be underestimated. Who knew just how effective it would prove in tackling feelings of detachment and boosting comradery?
I’m also keen to get back to the office to further harness our truly inclusive culture at Ricoh Europe. Make no mistake, there’s no shortage of incredible platforms and systems at our disposal. Our propriety technology, as well as that of our partners, has made remote working nothing short of seamless. Our Smart Spaces facilities management and desk booking app has really come into its own. Yet when it comes to developing a genuinely diverse and thriving culture, it’s always more impactful when we’re in the same building.
As with any programme of this nature, the trick is to communicate clearly and regularly with staff. As business leaders we can never have too much empathy. This means appreciating feelings of apprehension as well as changes that may have occurred in workers’ lives during the pandemic. The way forward for most companies looks likely to be a ‘blended’ solution – which enables employees to split their time working from the office and remotely.
While all roads across Europe might not lead to the office right now, it is undoubtedly the path to where we’re at our most social, spontaneous and effective.
Click here to discover how Ricoh can help you to establish a smart and safe workplace.