For the latest edition of our New World of Work video series, I spoke with Kati Barklund, Senior Manager of Workplace Strategy at Tenant & Partner, to understand how she’s handled this crisis at her company and as an advisor to others.
Barklund also shares with us what she thinks the criteria will be for sustainable workplaces and successful workplace strategists of the future. Tune into our full conversation below.
Let’s start by having you tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, and your current role.
Kati: So, I'm biologically Finnish, but socially Swedish, currently living outside of Stockholm. But, I am from a small village up north, on the border of Sweden and Finland, just below the Arctic Circle, in the Land of Midnight Sun. So, very exotic, even to me as I’m now living 1,000 kilometers from there and longing for home a lot of times.
I work as a workplace strategist at a workplace and property advising company Tenant & Partner, based in Sweden. I love people. And, my mission is to create workplaces, and really change the world one workplace at a time, as we say at Workplace Evolutionaries. I really enjoy helping create happy, performing people and sustainable workplaces, maximizing value for people, planet, and profit.
So you’re all about making workplaces better, which is great. But we have this very challenging year that we’ve been faced with. Can you talk a little bit about kind of what your main learnings have been so far with COVID-19?
Kati: From what I've seen, spring was a lot about crisis management for all organizations and just surviving, adjusting as needed in different ways to make work ‘work.’ That’s on an individual level, as well as an organizational and team level.
And, it’s really worked. I think that many of us were surprised. We could see that, in most cases, we stayed productive and effective while working remotely. Now, after summer’s end, I can see that organizations are headed towards a positive development phase. There are plenty of opportunities we can now take from this crisis. We can develop as people, organizations, and as a society as a whole, thanks to this pandemic. So it hasn’t all been bad.
Many organizations that I work with are reviewing and updating their workplace strategies around the new normal after this pandemic, and taking this opportunity to not just survive, but to also create even better performing, more sustainable businesses and happier people. (click to tweet)
Right. So, it’s not just about being reactive, but about being more forward-thinking.
Kati: Exactly, there’s a huge difference. Spring was really reactive and just about crisis management. And now, we’re seeing a lot more positivity and possibilities, and we’re being more proactive.
That’s great. So, in your own office, have you gone fully back to working full-time on-site? Or are you still working from home? What's that been like?
Kati: Yes. From March through the summertime, I think I went to the office five times, and to a client one or two times. Our office was open the whole time, but of course, if we were able to, we’d work from home. Of course, not everyone has a great environment for home working. So, the office has been open, and we have been able to bring home equipment like screens or chairs to make it work at home. But, I think we’ve had around five people maximum in the office during that time, instead of the normal 50-60. And that’s still how it is currently. We will be working from home likely for the rest of autumn but the office remains open.
I’m now trying to go into the office twice a week to meet a few people and get energized, because I really need in-person meetings - that’s really important to me.
Have you heard anything more about what the plans look like for bringing more people back to the office as things hopefully start to improve?
Kati: It's different from organization to organization. In some organizations and especially for some tasks, people have been working from the office, in a safe way, and in a safe environment. And, of course, they’re looking at how to bring back people in different ways, but many organizations will likely keep working from home through this season.
We’ll see this work-from-home trend continue after the pandemic. It will be different - some people will work mostly from home, and some mostly from the office, while others will have a mix of both. So, we’ll have to figure out how we help organizations and workplaces adjust to that mix, and allow their employees to have a choice. Individuals, now that they have this flexibility to work from anywhere, won’t want to give away that freedom.
That's a good segue into my last question. Perhaps this flexibility aspect will be a part of future workplaces, but what are the criteria for a successful workplace strategist of the future, and what are the criteria for a successful workplace in general?
Kati: First of all, I think it's really important that we align the workplace with our corporate strategies, so strategic alignment. Then, that we start working within our workplaces more holistically.
We’ll need to continuously focus on how we work physically, digitally, and psychologically in workspaces simultaneously, so that we make sure we continue to perform, stay proactive, and that our workplaces are attractive, sustainable, and secure all at the same time - not just for a reactive first phase. (click to tweet)
Then, we’ll need to focus on change management. It’s more about handling a change in our minds and behavior than it is a change in premises or technology.
I also believe that being authentic and real as an organization, a leader, and as an individual is really important for the future.
Wonderful. I look forward to seeing how you work to make those changes as we continue to battle this difficult time. And, hopefully, we'll talk again in the future and things will be a little bit easier.
Kati: Thank you. We should never let a good crisis go to waste. So, let's take advantage of the opportunities that come from this one.
Thank you again, Kati Barklund!
If you'd like to be a part of the next edition of our New World of Work series, or to learn more about how Proxyclick helps companies return to the workplace safely, contact us directly below.