Recognising the socio-technical opportunity of workplace : An analysis of early responses to COVID-19

Chris Moriarty, Director, Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management, Matthew Tucker, Reader and Hannah Wilson, Senior Lecturer, Liverpool John Moores University, Ian Ellison, Co-founder and James Pinder, Co-founder, 3edges Workplace Ltd

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Abstract: COVID-19 has disrupted the ways in which we work, offering an opportunity to rethink our workplaces. Organisations have had to adapt and respond in unprecedented ways to enable continued organisational performance that have come to see many people working from home. Early responses to ‘return-to-work’ have sought to repurpose existing workspace arrangements, but they miss the unique opportunity to reconceive ‘workplace’ more comprehensively, as well as the role the property community has in enabling work. This paper aims to highlight the opportunity of viewing workplace holistically through the lens of socio-technical systems. An examination of the early responses to the pandemic identified a focus on the technical aspects of reoccupying workspaces, but taking from socio-technical systems, this should not be to the detriment of other factors. A more nuanced debate regarding who should return to work and how this will occur is presented, which highlights further a need to move beyond the physical workspace and to reflect on how we can enable ways of working.


Keywords: COVID-19, coronavirus, pandemic, built environment, facility/facilities management (FM), socio-technical systems, workspace, workplace



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