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Published on 02 October 2020 by John Moffett

Generator General Manager John Moffett penned an article for Stuff around how Covid-19 has brought new workplace trends and opportunities for SMEs.

The last seven weeks have been spent confined to our bubble, barely going further than the local supermarket. Places where most people are gloved or masked and hardly talk to each other, and the closest we get is at the opposite end of the checkout or appropriately socially distanced transactions at the counter.

It’s no wonder then that there's trepidation about returning to work and semi-normal life in alert level two, when the only evidence of ‘normal’ we’ve experienced recently is a heavily sanitised version of reality.

As life starts to pick up pace again it’s clear how we work isn’t going to return to its pre-lockdown state. We’ll be concerned about desk distances and how many people share them, we’ll be alert to who enters our buildings, keeping high touch surfaces clean, and many will wonder whether they even want to return to the office all together.

For some, home has its perks. The morning commute is much shorter, the kitchen is close, and you know who is touching what surfaces. For others, the time to go back to the office couldn’t come soon enough, they miss the interaction with colleagues and the separation of home and office life. So how do businesses make the best of both worlds?

AN OFFICE WITHOUT OVERHEADS

As we gradually return to some semblance of normalcy, many Kiwi SMEs are unsure what that will mean for their business over the next three, six, or twelve months.

Shared workspaces such as locally owned provider Generator, which has been operating in Auckland for close to 10 years, creates the perfect foundation for SMEs to have the necessary office space without the same overheads. Fit out costs are much lower compared to an individual premise and desks and services can fluctuate as and when needed.

We’ve heard from many businesses that flexibility, contact tracing and cleaning over the coming months are extremely important for them as they return to work, and it’s reflective of a wider workplace shift we’re experiencing.

Smaller businesses are looking for more flexible options whether it’s lease periods, terms of their lease or the ability to shrink and scale their business as required without a big capital outlay. Shared workspaces are going to become a smart solution for SMEs post Covid-19.

It gives people a place to go to facilitate meetings, to ideate with others and get that much-needed face-to-face interaction. While the permanent home office may be attractive to some businesses, we must remember we’re social beings and we need to interact with one another. It's much easier to rebuild or pivot a business when surrounded by and can collaborate with businesses facing similar challenges. No business is alone in this.

Generator has taken this into consideration and altered its model for life at Level Two and beyond, adapting quickly to meet the new market needs with increased space to maximise physical distancing in breakout areas.

SHARED DOESN'T MEAN UNHYGIENIC

Understandably, there’s conversation around the hygiene of shared desks and how businesses must work smarter to keep people a safe distance apart. For years at Generator we’ve seen members champion staggered start times, routinely working from home or using the workplace as one of many places where work is done, not the sole location.

This is how many SMEs must shift to working in a post Covid-19 world. It’s about adapting to our new normal rather than go back to how things were.

On average shared workspaces have fewer people per square metre than your standard office building. So, for those thinking the word shared is synonymous with germs, think again. Compared to a standard commercial office building where each business has different protocols and policies, being based at a shared workspace doesn’t make you any more likely to encounter germs.

For SMEs wanting to reduce overheads or focus on hygiene processes, the major perk of a shared workspace is that these spaces are governed under one set of policies. Everyone in a Generator building must adhere to an overarching set of rules, so for us, we can ensure the highest standard of hygiene.

EMBRACE THE CHANGE

While lockdown has been tough for many, it’s also been an opportunity for businesses to learn how teams work best. SMEs must leverage what they’ve learned during lockdown. Whether it’s downsizing office space and having fewer desks that rotate between staff, or having some staff shift to remote working permanently, Level Two has created fertile ground to shake up work behaviours and work smarter.

The only constant we have right now is change, and we should embrace it. We need to pivot old models and embrace new ways of working. Work is becoming more flexible by the day, and businesses need to find a space with the ability and agility to flex with them through change.


Read the article on Stuff here: Changing workplace landscapes bring new opportunities for small businesses