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  • Writer's pictureSteve Henigan

Same post occupancy process, different project

By Steve Henigan

Perhaps difficult during these times but think back to those days (Pre March 2020) when we completed office fitout projects, and everyone moved into a new workspace together. The contractors party, the ribbon cutting, the day one niggles and the eventual settling in.

It is broadly accepted that everything will not be 100% perfect on the first day. The tweaking of IT equipment, the snagging works, that one piece of furniture that didn’t turn up on time. However more than anything it is the people and how they work.

We often talk about the big shifts to agile or non-allocated desking but almost all projects involve a degree of change. A new commute, building or desk set up or just the walls changing from a dull grey to an on-brand red. It is understandable that we do not invest so much money or time in these smaller changes but changes they are nonetheless and whatever change philosophy you follow it takes time for people to accept and get used to the new norms.

Whilst still not undertaken on all projects (and that is a rant for another day) it has become industry norm to wait 2-3 months before undertaking a post occupancy evaluation. Such a period allows for the completion of the above items and more importantly the accepting of the changes from the employees occupying the space.

So back to the post March situation and for most people in the UK we are 2-3 weeks into our home working experiment. An experiment which has turned the work and lives of so many upside down, working in environments without the correct desk setup, IT or broadband. Throw in becoming a part time teacher, sharing a kitchen table with noisy flat mates or a cat walking across your laptop this has become the largest and most complex workplace project ever undertaken.

So given the scale and complexity of this project why are we not following industry norms and instead reaching our conclusions on the success of this project after only 3 weeks?

It would seem that the last few weeks have broken the stigma of home working for many, removing the trust barrier and proving to even the most stubborn that it’s possible to work away from the office. However sadly in my opinion soon the cracks will start to appear. The mental obstacles of sharing an “office” with family members, children and flat mates will become more obvious. Refuge, the UK’s largest domestic abuse charity, reported a 120% increase in calls to its helpline since the lockdown. Similarly the mental challenges for those living and working alone will come to the surface when we start to fully understand the consequences of isolation. Add to this the physical issues resulting from the lack of ergonomics and correct IT equipment and my personal view is that home working may not be seen as the great workplace revolution that some are already claiming it to be.

However these are only my initial thoughts and like I am suggesting to the industry, I will wait another 1-2 months before forming any solid views on how we should work in the future.

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