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Creating and managing a safe new generation of workplaces

As we slowly start to understand how the post-covid offices will look and adapt, workplace and facilities management professionals are now charged with a unique opportunity to play a pivotal role in the big 'return to work', to ‘build back better’, and create and manage a safe and new generation of workplaces.

People need to feel confident about going back to working within an office environment, even if on a hybrid basis. Businesses must demonstrate flexibility and provide a safe environment for workers to return to, that benefits employee, the organisation and society in general.

The IWFM published results from their ‘Returning to work’ research recently, which was commissioned in April and June 2020 and again in March 2021 to help inform the profession, industries, and their guidance. This research provides key insights into the experiences, attitudes, and concerns of UK office workers as we head for new ways of working and wider adoption of hybrid working post-covid.

As businesses look to once again reopen their doors following an easing of lockdown measures, IWFM's research has found that the vast majority of employees will expect a level of ‘hybrid’ working in the future - with nearly half (44%) of the workforce planning to work from the office for 3 days or fewer a week. The findings also revealed that 63% of employees now believe the office to be unnecessary - a rise of a fifth since the first lockdown (51%).

The poll, which surveyed 2,000 office workers across the country in March 2021, shows that demand for hybrid working is particularly prevalent in the younger demographic. Two-thirds (66%) of 18-24-year-olds admitted that not being offered flexible work patterns would cause them to look for a new job. Yet worryingly, more than a third (38%) of this demographic feel their employer is pressuring them to return to the office - risking losing new talent.

Workplace and facilities managers must prepare buildings ready for reoccupation within the limits set by social distancing imperatives and help their organisations adjust, at pace, to a new set of operating norms. This kind of change programme requires professional leadership and represents a great opportunity for FMs to demonstrate the added value they offer in bringing together the space, culture and technology aspects of workplace into a workplace strategy which can enable organisations and individuals to remain productive.