Over my many years as an entrepreneur, I bought into the concept of the brick-and-mortar business with a focus on ambience and all the niceties believing that when it comes to workspaces what you see is what you get. I have similarly heard numerous times from many of my colleagues and budding entrepreneurs I coach that one of the biggest issues we have is capital in regard to establishing the brick-and-mortar workspace, and its numerous cash-laden overhead expenses such as office space, office furniture, and stationery amongst others. These expenses now are not necessarily required for future workplace orientation to run a successful business. I had to painfully learn through my own business that the traditional concept of brick-and-mortar can be adapted to more innovative models.
And now that the global economy has taken a nosedive, and businesses are struggling to stay afloat, businesses are looking to cut costs. I would not say that brick and mortar structures are irrelevant. In fact, there are some specific businesses that cannot do without the presence of a physical office. But as entrepreneurs, it is time to ask if we can do without them. As we get more familiar with working together virtually, we can consider if the model of brick-and-mortar spaces fits with what we do.
The old model of work, fashioned around the Industrial Revolution Era, which upheld the “under one roof-brick-mortar” model of conducting business has significantly declined around the world over the years. People are changing, habits are changing and lifestyles are changing. Our ability as businesses to recognize that can change the very essence of our business models. Due to advances in technology, more companies are gradually creating workspaces that enable them to lessen their real estate footprint, increase their talent pool, reduce turnovers and facilitate the ability to conduct business across multiple time zones.
In this article, we will look at the advent of the virtual workplace, shared workplace and pop-up workplace amongst others, which we can simply categorize under the name ‘Nouveau Workplace’, how it is disrupting the old model of the brick-and-mortar office concept and how entrepreneurs can seriously consider this novel approach to their organizational structure. However, we have to keep in mind that not all jobs are suitable to be done from home. Even if a lot of people keep working from home after the pandemic, we will still have to rely on other people, for example, to deliver our lunch or work in grocery stores so we can go and buy ingredients for the lunch we will prepare at home. On the other hand, a lot of people who can do their jobs remotely, and have not been given that chance before, will now demand it. Top companies know they will have to offer remote work if they want to keep top talent in the future.
Whether you are a small or mid-sized venture, the prospect of rapid growth is always good news. However, most of these ventures face an impending and daunting challenge: How to quickly scale your operations without dramatically increasing your overhead expenses. One solution to meet this challenge is to establish a ‘nouveau workplace’ and workforce. Under this organizational structure, teams with unique competences can be hired anywhere in the country or across the globe and managed remotely, virtually and flexibly. Entrepreneur.com further emphasizes this advantage, mentioning that businesses can hire the best, no matter where they are. ‘No- office’ means the ability to work with anyone in the world. Freelance networks like Toptal (with its notoriously tough location-independent screening process) have capitalized on this concept by connecting top companies with the very best software developers from all around the world. This approach eliminates the need for you to lease more office space and constantly worry about moving into bigger spaces as the enterprise grows.
A study found that companies could save an average of $2,000 per employee by letting them work from home. That same study showed that those who worked from home were more productive than those who regularly worked from a company’s office. A virtual, remote or flexible workforce was once difficult to manage. However, in the last few years, new technologies, such as video conferencing, scheduling tools, and project management solutions, now make managing a ‘nouveau workforce’ far more practical and much easier.
In addition to this, employees are rapidly choosing to work virtually or flexibly if they can. According to CNBC, the millennial generation is becoming increasingly interested in working remotely. This fits right with current trends indicating that nouveau companies are on the rise. There are currently 170 companies around the world that are 100 percent virtual compared to only 26 in 2014.
Every business leader knows that talent is a real competitive advantage and that without a stable, engaged workforce, your client and customer relationships will suffer. Hence, recruitment is becoming a major business challenge for small and mid-sized firms as the big fish compete with the little fish for the best in a limited talent pool.
According to NES-AFRICA, the ‘nouveau workplace’ has the potential to change all that because it allows small and mid-sized firms to offer the work flexibility that most big company employees can only dream about. With a ‘nouveau workplace’ model in place, your team can work from home or any location of their choosing and say goodbye to the long commutes to and from the office. This work flexibility is highly-valued among a wide range of employees and can allow small and medium-sized businesses to attract the top talent away from more cashed-up corporations who rely on money as a recruitment tool. The ‘nouveau workplace’ model also unlocks hidden talent that is often not available to or stimulated by traditional brick-and-mortar companies.
However, the ‘nouveau workplace’ is not for everyone. It requires a strong commitment to run your staff virtually, remotely and flexibly and to ensure employees feel supported, included and on a defined career path.
Here are my thoughts on 4 strategies leaders and entrepreneurs can consider in adopting this novel approach to their organizational structure.
- IDENTIFY ‘NOUVEAU WORKPLACE’ ELIGIBILITY
You have to first consider if your business is one that aligns with a ‘nouveau workplace’. There are some businesses that cannot adopt this model of workspace or will have to merge the two due to their value offering. For example, even though banks today have online banking services, they still have branch networks because their line of business cannot pick and choose one model or the other exclusively. Therefore, to know whether or not your business fits into this model you have to use focus groups, client surveys and other research methods to establish the eligibility of your business in alignment with the ‘nouveau workplace’.
2. SET CLEAR OBJECTIVES
Communication is the number #1 tool you need to set clear objectives. Communicate before, during as well as after the process that this is what you intend to do with your team. Also, revise job descriptions and job specifications to meet the needs of a ‘nouveau workspace’. You have to also focus on accountability, responsibility and productivity as your three areas of focus on the part of your team, in regards to acclimatizing to this novel approach to organizational structure.
3. JUMP ON THE TECHNOLOGY BANDWAGON
Creating a nouveau working environment requires you to jump on the technology bandwagon and utilize communication tools such as Dropbox, Trello, Zoom to Slack, Hootsuite amongst others. Your technology should promote organizational culture and keep every member in touch with one another. It is also important for the accessibility of official documents and efficient collaboration among all workers. The backbone of the nouveau style of work is communication and this can be leveraged through the right technological tools.
- JUST DO IT
Just do it! Yes, there is a great deal of trepidation in adopting a novel approach but as Mandela aptly put it: “l learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Knowing that you have done your background research, your team is on board with clear objectives and you are conversant about the needed technology to run this style of organizational structure, just do it!
It is time for us to change our modus operandi. It can work and what you should be asking yourself is how you can make it work. Our work, our mission and our visions are not any less important outside the four walls of prestigious looking buildings. The value of what we do is in what we actually do and how we deliver on our promise. It is time to teach our people how to work apart to achieve success together. Although challenging, we are in a much better era because we have countless tools and resources at our disposal. We simply have to look deep enough at the things that can support our transition.
Are you ready for TRANSFORMATION?
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo: The H.E.L.P. Coach
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo is a Personal Impact, Professional Growth and Influence Expert specializing in Humanness, Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Power – H.E.L.P.
A career spanning over two decades, she has established herself as a Certified High Performance Coach, Speaker, Author, Wellness Expert and award-winning Entrepreneur with a clientele ranging from C-Suite Executives, Senior Management, Practitioners and Sales Leaders spanning 3 continents.
She is the Founder of Dzigbordi K. Dosoo (DKD) Holdings; a premier lifestyle business group with brand subsidiaries that include Dzigbordi Consulting Group& Allure Africa.
Dzigbordi has been featured on CNN for her entrepreneurial expertise. She is one of the most decorated female entrepreneurs in Ghana having being named “CIMG Marketing Woman of the Year” in 2009; “Top 10 most respected CEOs in Ghana, 2012; Global Heart of Leadership Award and, Women Rising “100 Most Influential Ghanaian Women”, 2017.
She can be reached on [email protected] and @dzigbordikwaku across all social media platforms.