Six months ago, did work really equate to a physical presence in an office? And what is our perception of work today, as many countries are coming out of COVID-19?
A relevant question to ask now that the summer is over, and many employees in the public sector are gradually returning to work in many countries.
If there is anything COVID-19 has showed us, it is that working from a distance while maintaining high quality and effectiveness is possible – for some organizations it has even turned out to be more effective to work remotely.
Therefore, let’s not fall back into the old habits by dragging everyone back to the office. Something that may seem tempting among organizations seeking to find at least some kind of normality to return to. In my opinion, it would be a huge mistake. We have a golden opportunity to turn things upside-down; to break with existing conceptions of what a workplace looks like. If we do so, new possibilities arise.
Many don’t need an office
With the possibility to meet on Teams, Skype, Zoom and other virtual platforms, we no longer need an actual office to collaborate and stay connected.
Many organizations today work in teams that are not physically together in the same building. They work across units, borders and time zones. They bring people with the right skillset together online, even if these people are not necessarily accessible at all times. They are just more flexible, agile and effective.
Let us now take it one step further: Imaging public workplaces as something living in the cloud. This idea is not far away anymore. Just like data and IT-systems are moved to the cloud, the public sector jobs move to a virtual cloud of competencies. From here, the public sector operates – and coorporates; government agencies, municipalities, IT-support are no more than a virtual meeting away. Neither are sector experts or data.
All in one
Think about all the extra benefits that come with adjusting to the virtual workplace now.
Public sectors would bring transportation costs down. Reduce carbon footprint significantly. Wouldn’t need as many office buildings. Could provide more flexibility for each individual. And if relevant, relocation of jobs would be much easier to execute in the future when a job is not necessarily something that takes place in an office building.
When utilizing technology and new ways of working together, it is possible to present flexibility for the employees and gain insights and skills needed. By doing so, the public sectors shift focus from the organization to the employee. What kind of work routine suit the employees? How do they work most effectively? Questions that are crucial to raise in order to stay relevant as an employer.
COVID-19 represents the latest and most grave disruption facing society today, and public sectors are expected to adjust to every challenge fast and effectively. This cannot happen within an outdated framework. We need to adjust to new virtual ways of working to be able to cope with future challenges.
Specializes in the public sector, regulation and deregulation, reforms in the public sector and strategy. Carsten is managing partner for Government & Public Services in NSE (North South Europe). He has more than 20 years of experience as a consultant and advisor for the public sector, where he has led several highly complex analyses and larger transformation programs