As many employees return to the workplace, what will the office of the future look like and what have we learnt from remote working? Boudewijn Roelofsz, Director, Radar Workspace, and Veronica Gunther, Service Line Director, Corporate Services, share their views.
As the risks of the Covid pandemic recede, many companies want employees back at the office more often.
PWC’s recent report on the Office of the Future & Remote Working found that even though collaboration with colleagues also happens from home, “the most effective collaboration occurs in (physical) places that stimulate the exchange of ideas”.
However, many employees remain keen on working from home, at least in part. How will organisations interpret this hybrid working model?
Ideas about how to use office space, what is needed and how to achieve work/life balance have now become part of the dialogue between employers and employees over the office of the future.
There are likely to be many cultural and geographical differences. Individual industries will also differ.
As we assess the future of the workplace, it’s helpful to review the lessons of working from home to gain insights on the office of the future.
A flexible approach for home-working colleagues
There are so many examples of virtual meetings that went wrong or were interrupted by children, pets or others. When lockdown first came, employees had to find a spare desk in the guest room, or use the kitchen table or a communal area as a makeshift office. Families had to negotiate bandwidth on internet connections – or who had use of a shared laptop.
While many workers enjoyed not having to endure the daily commute, some missed the physical and psychological separation that the office provides from their private lives.
As employees return, companies may want to think about repurposing spaces for hybrid working, perhaps with desks arranged around a screen so people who opt to work from home can face colleagues as if they were attending meetings in person.
Fostering collaboration in the office of the future
Through the months of lockdown, people began to miss their colleagues. The office isn’t just for work, it’s also a social hub where people exchange ideas, discuss current affairs, swap tips and advice. Without face-to-face meetings, collaboration and creativity can suffer.
Meeting clients can spark new projects or additional work commissions. All of this is much harder in a virtual workplace, although many employees did their best in lockdown to keep up camaraderie with virtual Friday afternoon coffee sessions and weekly team meetings.
The office of the future may have desks and walls that can be added or removed easily, in order to adapt the available space for different needs.
We could see many more break out areas for employees to brainstorm with colleagues over coffee. Coffee bars and creative meeting areas are now commonplace in larger offices and flexible working spaces.
Offices built for interaction as well as solo work
While telecommuting may work well for older employees with family commitments and those with established careers, many young people found the experience difficult or lonely.
Some found living in a small apartment without a dedicated workspace challenging. Others had to share space with flatmates, or were alone and missed social companionship.
Although organisations did their best to support new recruits and make virtual onboarding as friendly as possible, younger employees missed out on the mentoring and support that daily contact with a line manager can bring. They also missed out on valuable face to face discussions on career development opportunities.
In the office of the future, face-to-face contact between employees and their managers, and other team members, will still play an important role for professional development. This means that employees’ workspace will need to be flexible to enable collaboration, while also allowing for privacy for focussed solo work and confidential catch ups.
Remote-working technology will evolve
When lockdown started, many employees were unfamiliar with Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Most organisations still processed much of their work on paper and most meetings were face to face. Two years on, meeting and collaborating online has become the norm. Businesses overcame huge challenges in integrating paper-free processes and upgrading software to cope with new demands.
In the future, employees may not even have their own desk anymore. Instead, they may bring their laptop to workplace ‘hubs’ when they need to collaborate or socialise. Technology, too, will evolve to make virtual collaboration from home even easier and seamless.
Flexible workspaces in the office of the future
Virtual teams don’t have the chance to have meetings or conversations that can spark new ideas or projects. On the other hand, collaboration can occur anywhere in an office – by the water cooler as much as in a formal meeting.
In the office of the future, the traditional floor plan is likely to change. Personal desks may be replaced by an open space with mobile desks, portable meeting rooms and privacy pods. This more relaxed environment will combine the best of working from home with the benefits of being together in a collaborative space.
The office is still the heart of company life
Multinational corporations as well as asset and fund managers have understood the advantages of hybrid arrangements, which maximise existing office space while boosting productivity and employees’ wellbeing.
Still, most organisations expect their employees to work at the office at least an equal mix of the time, if not more, according to a survey by CBRE, the US commercial real estate and investment firm.
In the US and Europe, employees are now expected to work at the office 2.5 or more days a week. In Asia-Pacific, however, employees who previously worked at the office every day – and were the most eager to return to their workplace after the lockdowns – can now opt to work remotely one or two days per month.
On the other hand, small firms worldwide are planning to return full-time to the office and are unlikely to adopt hybrid working, the CBRE survey said.
As a result, different business and geographies will require tailor-made solutions for the office of the future.
Plug-and-play offices for hybrid working
Radar Workspace, Intertrust Group’s office solutions team, has seen growing demand from many organisations wanting more hybrid use of office space.
To mitigate the significant investments required to furnish and operate an office – and equip teams with the right technology – we offer a full range of high-end, fully serviced plug-and-play office space solutions.
Our network of flexible and private office spaces allows clients to grow in prime business locations, whether they need a small satellite office space or a larger office to accommodate a growing team.
Visit our website and get in touch for more information and talk to our expert team today.
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