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Delta Variant Highlights Need for Flexibility in Workplace Strategies

coworkers talking, one with mask on, one with mask off
Carl Oliveri
Published on

The Delta Variant has become a household name as case numbers and hospitalizations continue to rise as a result of the new COVID-19 strain

Just as we began to settle into a more normal rhythm, uncertainty has come back swinging. While this has wide-ranging implications for the world at large, we want to focus on the thing we know best: workplaces. 

Return-to-Office slows as Delta variant gains speed

Progress has been made on return-to-offices globally but as the Delta Variant takes hold, we’ve seen numbers drop

Notably, in the APAC region, Australia and New Zealand were the first to lead the return-to-office. However, they were also hit with the Delta variant before us and that’s reflected in their –5.3% change in desk bookings during the month of July. 

As the U.S. starts seeing case numbers on par with the rest of the world, we are starting to hear discussions about delaying or shifting workplace strategies around the return-to-office. 

It’s another lesson in change management and as we continue to deal with external variables it’s more important than ever for leaders to remain agile with their workplace strategies and beyond.

The certainty of continued uncertainty

Unfortunately, scientists predict that this won’t be the last pandemic, let alone variant that we see in the future.

For workplaces, this emphasizes the need for solutions that allow for quick pivots in strategy. 

Future pandemics will emerge more often and spread more rapidly than COVID-19 unless there is a transformative change in the global approach to dealing with infectious diseases, warns a major new report on biodiversity and pandemics by 22 leading experts from around the world. 

Again, the implications here are a bit beyond our workplace blog scope, but the data is clear: we’re in for more unplannable variables. 

Despite all of this doom and gloom, a return-to-office is still possible. Your strategy will just look a little different than you planned.

How to create an agile strategy for workplace experience

The old cliche rings true: Change is the only constant. 

Your workplace strategy needs to remain flexible in an unpredictable world. Here’s some key strategies for businesses to create a workplace experience that is truly future-proofed.

1. Leverage the right workplace experience technology

You want to be prepared to have people in the office safely. You also want to enable choice for employees while staying within health guidelines. 

Workplace experience is about empowering your employees to get their best work done. For some, that means office space. For others, that means flexible scheduling. Workplace leaders need a tool in their corner that can help them:

  • Create health checkpoints.
  • Provide a safe experience for employees returning to the office.
  • Easily manage in-office social distancing.

Without these solutions, pivoting workplace guidelines is a tedious and time-intensive task. Making the right investment in the right workplace tools equips you with the technology needed to manage unexpected changes. 

2. Plan for a hybrid approach 

Hybrid work is here. It’s good for business. It’s good for employees. It’s good for creating a more agile workplace strategy. 

Creating a hybrid work strategy ensures that the office isn’t the focal point of your workforce. Employees will be accustomed to working from home and the office as they see fit. 

When unplanned variables come into play, hybrid workforces won’t have to make massive pivots, they’ll just have to adjust their existing guidelines. That could look like setting a daily number of bookable flexible desks or setting office capacity limits. 

This approach gives employees the flexibility to choose where they want to work while ensuring you are following safety guidelines. A win-win for both parties.

3. Be prepared for continued change

Hybrid workplace models are quickly becoming the rule, not the exception. The difference between success and failure will largely depend on how leaders manage the changes. 

Change management is defined as a systematic approach to dealing with the transition or transformation of an organization's goals, processes or technologies. 

According to Gartner, half of change initiatives fail, and only 34% are a clear success. 

It is leadership’s responsibility to ensure employees understand, support and can execute on changes in processes. The challenge for today’s leaders will be about ensuring the proper buy-in during shorter time periods. 

4. Decrease dependence of physical space

Office spaces were a central part of any workplace strategy before 2020. Since the pandemic hit, we’ve had to redefine what workplace experience looks like without a physical office. 

From implementing desk-booking options to building out more collaborative spaces, the office should be a resource for your teams. 

Leaders that want to fully embrace the new normal should consider how to make the office more effective for employees while also ensuring that all work can be done effectively and equitably from anywhere. 

Your workplace should transcend physical spaces. And as such, external changes that require an office-less workforce should only really affect one aspect of your entire workplace experience. 

Let Robin help 

It’s critical to stay flexible in the current landscape. Delta has shown us that things can change fast and it’s up to workplace leaders to create plans for their teams that are easily adapted to the world around them.

Looking for a workplace tool that can help? Sign up for a free demo of Robin today.

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