28 Jan

Groundhog Day

What does the future of working look like for VF?
Garrett Doyle
min read

I have always been a fan of the movie groundhog day, and in the last year, it has taken on new relevance. We hope this will be the last lockdown, and we all hope to move towards life and work normality.

Lockdown 3 and the vaccine rollout have led me to start thinking about the new normal. There has been much written, especially early in the pandemic, about how virtual work is the new default setting. Both The Virtual Forge and Dreamtek adapted well technologically once we went entirely virtual, and in many cases, the staff thrived. However, it's now almost a year, and I think there is now a more complicated view. For me, it's a balance of mental health and individual preference with consideration for individual and team productivity.

Productivity is a very complicated topic. Many of our teams have commented about how well they have worked from home. The question is, what is the interaction between individual effort and the importance of collaboration. For sure, communication tools have been effective this last year, but fatigue has set in. In our own internal review of productivity, the results vary according to personality, home situation, and reliance on others to gain motivation, tuition, or direction.

Without a doubt, change is coming to the workspace. Change beyond just the health and safety component of dealing with what hopefully will be the tail end of the virus. There is already great debate within organisations when looking at balancing the high cost of actual offices versus the key value of productivity and collaboration. The scale has been thrown off, and it will take a while to set itself right again. I predict that it will be matched with an acceleration in versatile working when we see a return to office working. Large organisations are constrained by the real estate realities of long leases and an inability to move those leases on, so making the most of the space they are obliged to keep will undoubtedly come into play. I do feel that this could become a golden age of shared working spaces and many variations on that theme. Flexibility, along with safety, will undoubtedly be at the top of any facility managers priority list.

Company culture has always been important to the companies I am involved with. These last 12 months, due to Covid and rapid growth, my view has changed on how to create and maintain a culture. Previously I always saw it as an organic process based on core principles. I certainly believe more than ever that it's principles-based, but now as you grow and work separated, it has to be worked at. This is especially the case when you have all of this going on, and significant other events in both the US and UK that cause concern for the team. Being compassionate and putting yourself in others peoples shoes is both harder and more difficult.

I don't have a full view of how things will end because it is all dependent on the safety situation. I am keen personally to return to our offices in Portugal and the United States as well as visit our Singapore office for the first time. I find that face to face interaction invaluable. However, I fully intend to keep the bonding activities we put in place to cope over the past year, hoping we’ll be better organisations as a result.

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