Due to the current situation many people have had to adapt to a new way of working. The home has become their place of work and many companies have been supportive of the work-from-home experiment by providing their employees with the equipment they need in order to work remotely. More recently, many employees have returned to the office and businesses have had to rethink how they can continue to best help and support their staff.
The Changing Role of Offices
Offices were once a place where we worked from nine to five, five days a week. For most, there was very little flexibility about how one could rearrange their working week to suit their preferred lifestyle.
Many companies have recognised the benefits of staff working from home, with some reporting an increase in productivity. The flexibility of working from home has also benefited employees who have been able to avoid the tedious commute to and from work and achieve a better work-life balance. This flexibility, when it comes to where and when people choose to work, has continued as offices have reopened.
Consequently, staff have found that working in the office is now a somewhat different experience. Offices may now be a place for collaboration where employees meet up periodically to interact with their colleagues within a safe environment. As a result, businesses will need to look at ways to accommodate the specific requirements of the times.
While the work from home model appears to have been a great success, was this because it was seen as a temporary rather than permanent situation? Businesses have had to consider the potential impact relating to the company culture, the benefits of planned and unplanned collaboration, physical interaction, as well as mentorship and talent development in the new look office environment.
Why is the Office Important?
Even though the role of the office is changing, it is still important for employees to have a communal space where they can interact with colleagues and collaborate when it comes to the likes of creative brainstorms etc. Without an office, face-to-face contact would diminish, and with it, social capital. Offices are still seen as the heart and soul of a business, reflecting its brand and culture. This is important for potential hires, clients or business partners who would like to learn more about your company. Team bonding and network building are essential for developing a positive company culture to assist in attracting and retaining the best talent.
Despite the changes forced by the current situation, businesses should not abandon office life, but instead, look to adapt by reimagining their space to support the needs of their workers.
Updating Your Office Culture
The way organisations choose to reimagine their office space will vary depending on their company culture and the needs of the business. There is no right and wrong answer. It all depends on the location of the office space, how much collaboration is required, the individual role requirements while also ensuring that measures are in place to provide for protection and safety. There may be other factors to be considered also.
We recommend taking the following four steps to reimagine how work is done and what your office of the future may look like.
Most businesses have a combination of open plan offices, private offices and meeting rooms. While there are those that are designed to support organisational priorities, many might require a rethink. Businesses should consider creating workspaces that are specifically designed to support the kind of interactions that cannot happen remotely. If for example, collaboration and team meetings are now the primary use for the office, the opening of more creative spaces for group meetings and brainstorming would be useful.
As many employees are choosing to continue to increase a home office approach, it is unlikely that all of the desks will be utilised. A hot desking area could be created where people, who prefer to go into the office, can sit and participate in activities together. This could also be an effective way to encourage the interaction between departments and to move away from the traditional and somewhat outdated office set-up. With staff spending less time in the office together, it is important to find ways to recapture and encourage collaboration and social interaction.
Working at home or in the office
Most employers will have already assessed the roles within their business and ascertained which roles can be carried out at home successfully and which roles must be performed in the office environment.
Roles can be classified by:
- Fully remote
- Hybrid remote
- Hybrid remote by exception
- On site
Fully Remote and Hybrid remote:
Businesses can begin to consider broadening the pool of available talent to new geographical locations. Employees may prefer to live in a city or town where the cost of living is cheaper or perhaps in closer proximity to family and places they love, while still working for a preferred company in their field. This approach could be beneficial for both employer and employee.
Hybrid remote by exception and on site:
Business owners and managers can tailor the office to help support employees working in these positions, in order to help improve morale and productivity. Introducing a more flexible office schedule could help these employees at work to find an improved work-life balance.
Employers must also ensure that when staff return to the office, the workplace is both productive and safe.
Working remotely has meant that employees are increasingly reliant on Team Meetings, Zoom and other online workspaces and technologies in order to work and collaborate with each other. This will continue to be applicable as some employees return to the office while others continue to work from home.
Using technology could prove challenging for some employees still working remotely as they may not feel they can participate as effectively in the meetings compared to those communicating face-to-face. It is important that the barriers, between being physically in the office and out of the office, be recognised and overcome.
As some employees may opt to continue to communicate virtually, creative working spaces and meeting rooms need to be adequately designed for this purpose to ensure teams are able to collaborate effectively. Having seamless in-person and remote collaboration spaces (such as virtual whiteboards), and asynchronous collaboration and working models, will quickly shift from futuristic concepts to a standard requirement. Large screens, along with a camera and speakers, could benefit employees working remotely allowing them able to interact and contribute, effectively, to the meetings.
A change in location
Due to the new office model, employers can consider hiring from a wider talent pool now the geographical location is less of an issue. Accordingly, companies may like to review how much space is actually required and how well it is being utilised in the office, given that fewer people will be on site. .
Companies may continue to have their offices in big cities, whereas others could choose to move to a suburban location. These changes create an opportunity to reduce costs relating to rent, operations, capital costs, maintenance and management.
Important points to consider when making changes to an existing office, or moving to a new location, are whether it fosters desired outcomes for collaboration, productivity, culture and the overall work experience.