The research found Hobart, the best performing city, was still only at 79% of pre-COVID levels, while Sydney was at 40%, and Melbourne at just 7%.
It’s not just businesses who are reluctant to fill their offices. Employees are just as reticent to return, at least full time, partly due to the risks exposed by the commute and communal office environment. Many have also discovered how productive they can be working from home.
All industries are re-evaluating their real estate strategy. Some are reconfiguring their offices with more collaborative spaces and fewer individual desks and adopting a ‘hub and spoke model’ with a reduced head office. This means that these businesses are investing in several smaller office spaces away from the central business district and implementing more permanent working from home arrangements. This model allows businesses the flexibility and best of both worlds – still providing a centralised head office, but a more flexible model to be more adaptable and resilient in the future. However, as with any new solution, there are factors that must be considered.
As leaders sit down and assess what sort of operational model they should adopt long-term, it is important for them not to discount what an office environment gives a company and it’s employees.
Managing security for remote users
The first consideration when discussing future operational models is security. In general, it’s much harder to manage a user’s security when they are working from home. You don’t have any control over the physical security of the property including who has access to the workspace or which devices employees are using. The connection to the corporate network is usually being made from a standard broadband internet service, which could also raise issues of availability and redundancy. Remote users have also become much more of a target for attacks, particularly phishing attacks, including fake Zoom invitations and phishing scams.
There are some security requirements that simply can’t be met working remotely, particularly in highly-regulated industries like banking, finance and superannuation. Businesses in these areas are regulated by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) which have stringent requirements including mandatory business continuity suites facilities. During the pandemic, we found that these APRA regulated industries used these suites to staff-split. Ultimately, using their suits like an office offered the ability to maintain their resilience through physical separation of their teams and allowed them to continue to operate throughout the pandemic.
It is important to understand your industry regulations if you are setting up a hub and spoke office model in a business. In highly regulated industries, this model can become finicky and expensive long-term and alternative options need to be considered.
The advantages of a physical office space
The second thing to tackle with reviewing operational models is collaboration. Throughout the pandemic, workplaces have struggled to keep up high collaboration between departments. Throughout every industry, we have seen incredible take-up of tools and technologies to help with collaboration, but this doesn’t replace the benefits of doing so in person
Key insightThe cross pollination of ideas across teams and the sparks of inspiration that can come from spontaneous connections made when people are physically working together cannot be matched by alternative technology platforms.
For employees to collaborate, innovate and be productive
For the company to reflect its brand and culture
For employees to experience community and social interaction
In the United States, the National Bureau of Economic Research found that the average number of meetings attended by a worker rose by 13.5%, on average. It can be concluded that the increase in virtual meetings was many businesses attempt at maintaining collaboration between teams… but with more time in meetings, who has time to do the work during the day! The pandemic has caused the nature of work to change for many employees globally and businesses are still trying to find the right balance.
How we help
At Interactive, we have had the unique platform to help many businesses throughout the pandemic.
As a premier business continuity provider, our customers relied on us to maintain their operations and resilience through the year, and we have used this knowledge in development of our serviced offices. This is not something we had to build, instead it was more about designing a service construct and model that has pivoted from a ‘just in case’ service to a permanent facility, available for a contracted period of time.
With our serviced offices in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, we allow organisations accelerate their adoption of new ways of working and help take away the headaches and cost of lease negotiations, building management overheads and fit outs, office security, and provisioning connectivity and other critical ICT services. We have over 30-years’ experience in operating data centre, business continuity and risk management services and ensure you are in safe hands, no matter what the back to work model you choose.
Gain operational flexibility without sacrificing security or compliance.