Of the many polls I keep doing on my LinkedIn, one of them inquired about the future of physical offices amongst consultancies. The poll was created exclusively for corporate communications professionals to respond. The question was, will it matter to them if their consultancy does not own a physical office and all their consultants work from home even after COVID19 has ended? Will it change anything or it won’t matter? That post had more than 5800 views and 299 corporate communicators responded.
Only 9% believed that physical office is a must for consultancies, while 38% said it does not matter as long as the work is being delivered as expected. However the majority 53% responded that they would prefer a hybrid option.
Pre pandemic, office was something to boast about to employees and to clients, from location to office facilities such as cafeteria, gym, pool tables, meeting rooms to libraries mattered. But suddenly everything changed, pitching from a large conference room moved to Zoom or Microsoft Teams from your balconies to the kitchen table.
Having been acclimatized in the new way of working for almost 8 months now, does it still makes sense to own that expensive piece of real estate? Will we see a new generation of consultancies who are mobile and can work from client offices or cafes?
On the ground, nothing seems to have stopped for PR consultancies after the initial blip. Media coverage is almost back to normal, new business pitches are going on in full swing, new businesses are being won and even hiring has picked up pace once again.
Consultancies and clients are now slowly realizing that there are now opportunities in the new normal as well. Talent, the most important asset of consultancies are now not restricted to geographies, you can now have on your account, not only local talent but also international if you are willing to pay. Productivity has increased (of course the work-life balance of poor consultants has got jumbled up), and so is consultancy – client face time (virtually). Apart from these, money saved on rent & utilities and the time spent not commuting are few other benefits to giving up the office. Moreover, employees now need not be staying in downtown paying high rents, they can move back to their home towns or cheaper suburbs.
On the other hand, while work at the moment may not be suffering but the huddling for brain-storming, feeding off each other’s brains and generating ideas, inducting new employees into the culture as well as hand-holding physically is taking a backseat. Can you develop a culture, which is so important for every organization virtually? Also many are struggling, working from the end of their beds or kitchen tables from their tiny apartments. People with large joint families and all members working from home is another struggle all together. Employers are worried that it won’t be healthy in the long-run, as in the office they provide right seating, lighting, technology etc., which also matters for smooth functioning.
Consultancies have learnt many lessons and were forced to innovate or adopt technology better, due to pandemic and these lessons are not going to get lost once everything is normal. However, no one is still sure if the industry is ready to embrace a complete virtual model.
As stated above 53% of corporate communicators are advocating hybrid structure and the same is also reflected in the PRovoke’s latest Covid-19 research that says, most agency heads (44%) see a mix of home and office working as optimum for their business. Whatever may be the outcome, this pandemic will leave a heavy impact on consultancies and talent alike, new models of work will emerge. A hub-and-spoke way of working or something else, no one knows what is stored in the future. What’s happening in your office, which way the winds are blowing? Please enlighten us by leaving your comments below.