‘Fog of War’ Clouding Assumptions on Returning to Office, Expert Says

Real Estate

Doane Kelly, the leader of Savills’ workforce strategy, said that while understandable in the moment, the idea that companies and organizations can be as productive with a mostly remote workforce is a long-term proclamation being made during a period of clouded vision for the future. 

In a Q&A with Kelly, the expert suggested that business leaders should use a more data-driven approach to the long-term implications of the pandemic as it relates to office usage, noting that although certain types of workers can benefit from the lack of commuting and general social interaction, that isn’t the case for everyone. 

“An important insight from this experience is that the old workplace model has gravely mismanaged our work week,” Kelly said in a statement. “Heads down” work often is most easily accomplished at home (under the right circumstances) without the burden of commuting and endless office distractions. Collaborative work, ideation and innovation is a “team sport,” amplified by the random collisions that co-location facilitates.

In order to figure out who should be working from home on a more permanent basis and who will benefit from coming back into the office, Kelly leaned on data crunching.

“Methodologies like Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) will be employed to quantify common communication pathways within organizational structures or between business units and teams,” Kelly said. “ONA is an analytical approach to visualizing the socio-technical flows of information and expertise within an organization. This type of analysis will help highlight component organizational units that most benefit from urban co-location and identify where potentially higher risk thresholds (and likely higher expense) can be tolerated in order to accomplish mission-critical objectives.”

She also said that there should be concerns about how to develop and train younger talent, which in the context of this paper was defined as workers under 35 years of age with a bachelor’s degree or higher. 

“By and large, the established virtualized workforce has a high degree of professional and institutional experience,” Kelly said in a statement. “The challenge ahead is how do we train, mentor and imbue the next generation of workers with a company’s mission, values and culture?”

Kelly returned to her original point of not making long-term decisions while under the auspice of the “fog of war” the pandemic has created, and that while she respects the opinions of the business leaders who have publicly stated they will not be going to the office, she suggested they take a breath and examine how she believes many business are not operating at pre-pandemic levels.

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