If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that the world-wide trial of “WFH” has been successful and that employees’ health and well-being will need to be prioritised if businesses hope to continue attracting good talent and not losing them to other businesses who value their employees more.
You’re not alone if you’ve loved working from home but are dreaming of the day when you can enjoy the comradery of an office again… even if only for short spells. Many of the benefits of having an office haven’t changed, such as collaboration, team productivity, business image and business opportunities, encouraging business leaders to return to an office. However, remote working has reduced overheads, widened the talent pool from the business’ locale and improved inclusion and diversity, while also benefitting employees with greater work life balance, more autonomy and flexibility, a sense of improved productivity and savings thanks to reduced transport costs. With these enormous benefits to both businesses and employees, forward-thinking, human-centric leaders are looking at how they can bounce forward to a new and better way, rather than defaulting back to the old way.
Most people talk about the future loosely as a hybrid office, an evolution of flexible working as we’ve known it in the past: a day or two a week in the office, to collaborate, create and connect with colleagues, with the remainder at home for all employees.
Consequently, business leaders, especially of smaller businesses, will be looking for smaller permanent spaces and/or regular, flexible access to rooms that don’t have set stations but employees can adapt when there to be meeting spaces, collaboration hubs or “traditional” working stations. This is not co-working though, as both co-working spaces and businesses choosing to have their own lease will need to consider how they design the area to balance empty spaces while colleagues work from home with too many employees and not enough work stations. In other words, sterile but often over-subscribed hotdesks will be a thing of the past. A consideration in how to do this will be whether office days are ‘set’ for everyone (and therefore the office space can be shared with other businesses), or whether businesses will allow greater employee autonomy but be forced to have smaller but permanent spaces.
Furthermore, as we move beyond the temporary pandemic WFH set-up to the new hybrid model, businesses will need to take more responsibility in ensuring suitable set-ups at home, from proper desks and chairs (no more sofa, bed or dining table working), ergonomic set-up and proper server and firewall data protection.
While this new hybrid model sounds appealing, there are still a lot of considerations to iron out, but perhaps the biggest one is: are businesses ready and able to adapt to this, while maintaining company culture and onboarding new employees in the most collaborative and welcoming way that will enable strong team cohesion long into the future?