WITH many of my colleagues in various industries still working remotely or having more flexible work arrangements, the office as we know it has been transformed.
With social distancing a main concern, many offices have been re-designed—placing desks further apart and enforcing one-way traffic schemes on corridors. Thermal scanners, disinfectants, and health declaration codes have become part of our everyday routine.
In fact, many employers are rethinking the role of their offices, and for some, this means going virtual. And with that, my colleagues in the PR and advertising industry can consider adjusting their budgets, and investing in a new model.
In an article, “Your Office is Now Virtual: It’s Time to Adjust Your Budget,” in PR News, Melissa Matthews, founding partner of The Matthews Group, says that “zeroing out on rent, utilities, parking, and even the community coffee pot are some of the most attractive reasons businesses are embracing a distributed work force. It may seem like a windfall.”
She feels, though that “not all these savings should go to the bottom line.” Instead, “closing the door on your office sends the opportunity to invest in a new model.”
Matthews gives us a few items to consider:
- Focus on talent. Being office free, says Matthews, means that you can shift fundamentally to investing in people. With that, you can shift fundamentally on how you recruit.
For example, “geographical limits no longer apply. In addition, you can empower employees to work more independently and prioritize productivity over time cards.”
Without question, attracting and retaining talent is a great use of newly found resources of saving on office space. It’s not surprising you often hear executives saying, “We don’t spend money on rent, we spend it on people.”
- Rethink face time. While working remotely has its benefits, Matthews believes that “there’s still tremendous value in seeing people in person once health guidelines allow” so she urges management to budget for it.
For example, you can use “team building off-sites, working dinners, or the occasional shared workspace to solidify relationships and cultivate a shared vision.”
And when you’re together, “It’s also a great time to get practical things done, such as head shots. Maximize travel resources by adding a couple of days to trips to spend time with colleagues.
- Get your toolbox in order. For virtual and semi-virtual offices to really thrive, Matthews says that you will need to put new systems and supports in place. That means investing in technology that will make the work flow more efficient and effective for everyone.
For example, consider Microsoft Teams, which Matthews describes as a “an integrated platform that is reliable and secure.”
Likewise, “spend time and resources testing what’s right for your culture. In fact, finding the right tools and processes for collaboration will be essential to preserving and strengthening your culture.”
- Review your back office. All in all, “your business operations need to match your new model. We cannot say enough about the peace of mind that comes with having an assistant, HR consultants, attorneys, and accountants who understand the nuances of virtual workers.”
That’s because “they know how to flex unique circumstances from the work-from-home world such as managing different time zones, telecommuting ready employment agreements, and multiple jurisdictions.”
Matthews has one final thought on what to avoid: “do not discount rates from the brick and mortar days. This might unintentionally signal that your work is less valuable since you’ve given up your office space. And in this tough economy, that’s money in the bank.”
PR Matters is a roundtable column by members of the local chapter of the United Kingdom-based International Public Relations Association (Ipra), the world’s premier association for senior professionals around the world. Millie Dizon, the senior vice president for marketing and Communications of SM, is the former local chairman.
We are devoting a special column each month to answer the reader’s questions about public relations. Please send your comments and questions to email@example.com.
Image credits: www.freepik.com