Atea boss Ole Petter Saxrud is looking forward to getting people back to the office they moved to weeks before the pandemic broke out in Norway, but an architectural psychologist believes working life is facing a historic tipping point.
It goes towards easing the infection control measures. Minister of Health Ingvild Kjerkol has already promised that they will be “significant”, without her going into more detail on what will be eased. The Liberal Party’s Sveinung Rotevatn was clear that the home office order should expire first.
– We have been looking forward to that, says CEO of Atea, Ole Petter Saxrud about the opportunity to get people back in the office premises.
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The IT company is headquartered in a new “smart building” at Økern, east of Oslo. The gray office building with large windows has 6,000 sensors to measure presence, temperature and movement, according to the website.
The lifts can be controlled with both an access card and an app, sensors control the lights and the meeting rooms have screens and video equipment for meetings. They managed to move in a few weeks before the pandemic came to the country, now they are missing the people.
– The energy level has changed, it is more difficult to mobilize enthusiasm now, says Saxrud.
1 of 3Gabriel Aas Skålevik / E24
Saxrud stands on the top floor of the building, where they have a screen in one corner and narrow billiard tables in another. Here they will facilitate the good breaks. The goal is to make it attractive to return to the office, because it has been difficult to get people away from the home offices at times.
– There can be many reasons for this, he adds, citing fears of infection and travel, as examples.
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Architectural psychologist Oddvar Skjæveland in Mellomrom highlights the aesthetics of the home as an important reason why some people prefer home offices, in addition to the lack of travel. He points to small conditions, smaller sections and that it has a personal touch with art and decoration.
“Intensely busy” with home office
It is also about access to “good treats”, such as fruit, snacks or drinks, as well as the opportunity to retreat to quiet areas, Skjæveland points out.
When the relief comes, it will be more difficult for employers to plan and calculate everyday office life.
– People are intensely concerned about this with home offices, he says.
He points out that he thinks it has come to stay. In the last 100 years, 8-hour working days, holidays for all and parental leave have been introduced, common to them all is that it has given employees increased discretion over their own time, and that employers cannot take back the benefits.
– I think people generally underestimate the importance of this. There is quite a big upheaval in Norwegian working life, and towards 2030 this will leave traces we do not yet see the scope of, he says.
He describes it as a “historic turning point in working life”.
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Before the pandemic, there was an average of around 30 percent absence from the office, whether it was illness, travel or the like. Calculations from Skjæveland show that with a home office day a week, it will be about 50 percent on average in the office. If it is increased to two days a week, there will only be around 30-40 per cent left.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, Minister of Finance Trygve Slagsvold Vedum and Minister of Health Kjerkol will take the podium and present the new measures.
Only after that will Atea gather the troops and make a plan for “the new normal”.
Going forward, they will facilitate flexibility for the employees, and the new office, Saxrud believes, is not primarily a “desk row where you sit and work, but look at it more as a square and a gathering place”.
Moved in weeks before the pandemic
There are between 500 and 600 who have Atea’s head office as their workplace, but the boss estimates that they have room for about 450 at a time. He emphasizes that even before the pandemic, not everyone was in the office at the same time, as many of the sellers are out with customers.
They managed to use the new building for a few weeks before the whole of Norway was sent to a home office. Even though they have not had time to “live in” in the building, adjustments are being made. Saxrud believes that they will have more social sofa groups, but perhaps fewer traditional workplaces.
1 of 3Gabriel Aas Skålevik / E24
He believes that the office of the future has a different function than it has had until now.
– It will be an important gathering place for creativity, brainstorming and all processes where you need more points of view, he says.
The tasks you solve individually on your own PC, he thinks that many may continue to want to do at home.
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Through the pandemic, working life has seen home offices work. You can have the meetings digitally, but you lose the micro-communication, Skjæveland explains. It’s about the conversations at the coffee machine, the messages you get when you see a colleague, and being able to see and hear those you work with.
– It is very valuable to achieve good interaction, belonging, security and in fact also health. All of this is something that lubricates interaction in work processes, collaboration and service production, Skjævland explains why employers want people back.
During the period of mandatory home office, employees themselves have reported that they are productive in the home office, but Skjæveland points out that the manager does not necessarily agree. He explains this by saying that even though employees have done what they had intended, they have not done the tasks the manager sees as the most important for the whole.
Now Saxrud is looking forward to the employees being able to build social relationships with their colleagues again, because it is not as easy to achieve in video meetings.
– The close daily contact with “your herd” – it has been challenging, says Saxrud.