As we enter the year 2024, there will be significant changes in office design. The highly anticipated “Great Return to Work” is altering our understanding and creation of workspaces. This article explores the shifting landscape and important trends that will shape office interiors in the upcoming year.
The concept of flexible working is here to stay.
As a result of COVID-19, every organisation has been thrust into a position where they will ultimately have to determine their own balance between flexible work patterns and expected employee productivity.
So how do we get the balance right? If you’re asking this question, know that you are certainly not alone in this search for a sustainable work model. Companies across the world are testing, implementing, and challenging new and improved work patterns, all in the search for a healthy balance of agility and results.
Achieving this stable mid-point goes beyond just a change in work hours or number of technology platforms used – it’s about strategising, understanding, and executing both behavioural and physical changes within the organisation in a viable and supportive way.
For these changes to be successful, buy-in from leadership teams and staff members is essential. Therefore, the principles must not only make sense but actually “work” when put into practice.
When crafting a new business strategy, every enterprise must carefully analyse their goals and the expected outcomes, including the financial and operational risks to consider. However, it’s also critical that these solutions are sustainable and will not adversely encroach on the performance of the workforce.
Numerous businesses are now embracing a hybrid office model. According to a survey conducted by Gartner, at least 80% of companies have introduced a work-from-home policy since the beginning of the pandemic. Of these, 47% intend to let employees continue working remotely.
So what is a hybrid workspace?
Hybrid work is a flexible model that allows staff to operate from onsite and offsite locations. This setup can be negotiated between the employer, management, and team members depending on the nature of work.
However, many organisations still find addressing hybrid workspaces challenging, since they are unclear on how to properly plan and implement it. As mentioned above, balance is the most important factor. Here’s how companies are successfully planning and developing hybrid workspaces:
Balance through Behavioural Change
Most employees now have an effective office setup that allows them to effectively work from home. To sustain this, employers must first institute behavioural change to empower the workforce.
Rebuild and maintain company culture
Most enterprises spend years establishing the culture of their organisation – it is the pillar of any business and showcases who they are and the reason they do what they do. So how would companies uphold and strengthen those values in a newly hybrid working world?
How team members engage and collaborate with one another is vital to a company’s success. Make sure there are regular team catch-ups which don’t necessarily have to be work-related. It’s good for managers to understand where every team member is – their accomplishments, challenges, and current status. Sharing successes is a key way to ensure every employee feels they’re acknowledged and celebrated.
Empower everyone to utilise online technologies to keep in contact and collaborate, and encourage them to share good news and positive stories across teams and the business.
Prioritise employee wellbeing
Continuing with the theme of company culture,, the current crisis has undoubtedly impacted employees negatively. People face different obstacles while in lockdown – whether that be childcare, isolation, and limited resources that would allow them to be productive day-to-day. Many will be anxious about their own – and their family’s – health, finances, and wellbeing. On top of this, they’re worried about returning to the office, especially if it requires a major adjustment. All these combined have a significant effect on the mental and physical health of your employees.
Having regular group calls is essential, but having private one-on-one check-ins where every employee feels safe to discuss their concerns is also incredibly valuable.
Encourage learning and development
How can you ensure that your managers and employees are fully equipped to deal with this new working model? Start by implementing training programs that prepare them to utilise the essential tools to manage a hybrid workforce environment. Adapt the training your company already provides to complement the new era of work and make sure you are concentrating on critical skills that are required by your organisation. Be committed to upskilling your staff through inhouse and online learning systems where appropriate.
In an office-first model, employees are expected to clock in and clock out at a fixed time, every workday. This is no longer a sustainable approach, especially with people being expected to wear multiple hats all at once while they’re at home – parents are taking care of their children, doing jobs around the house and dealing with myriad distractions round-the-clock.
Because of this, employees are more appreciative of being offered flexibility. What does this mean? This means not being expected to sit in front of their computer for 8 hours straight, only getting up to take a 15-minute break. Qualcomm IT reveals that 88% of their workforce value the flexibility being offered to them, and their productivity and engagement have increased.
For hybrid work, as long as employees are performing well and meeting performance targets, allow them to make their own decisions on when and where they’ll be working.
Balance through Physical Change
One of the biggest challenges that organisations must address in developing a hybrid office is reimagining physical change. This has a high impact on a company’s operation as well as employee productivity.
With most offices sitting empty for the better part of 2020, many organisations have seen the chance to cut down on real estate and utility costs. At the same time, this is also an opportunity to transform how current workspaces are used, and utilising them for better alignment with the way people work in the hybrid work setup.
Instead of rows of cubicles and desks, workplaces are now being opened up to make room for collaboration areas and meeting spaces. While working remotely has shown its merit, team members will be missing having face-to-face meetings and working alongside each other after 12 to 18 months of being isolated – and companies must be prepared to fill this requirement.
Tied to this reconceptualisation of space utilisation is studying how technology can help promote effective collaboration, as well as creating a comfortable and secure environment for everyone.
Communication platforms such as MS Teams, Zoom, and Slack will continue to play a vital role when workplaces switch to a hybrid office model. As best practice, teams should keep using video tools for meetings where possible.
Collaborating and brainstorming can be difficult when team members are working from different locations. In the hybrid model, big ideations can be done in the office, but investing in virtual whiteboards and mind-mapping tools will help participants seamlessly collaborate on projects and execution.
“Office” Perks and Benefits
The drastic switch to remote work made in-office perks such as free drinks, free meals, wellness activities, and even ‘beer Fridays’ obsolete. In the “new normal”, it’s important to think of programs that are not restricted to physical places, therefore allowing it to be more inclusive for employees.
Instead of giving out gym memberships and location-specific gift cards, offer things that can be used in many places, such as online groceries or monthly wine or coffee delivery. Paying for your staff’s internet connection at home is also a greatly appreciated benefit during this time, in addition to standard employee perks.
By offering the same perks and gifts to everyone in your organisation, whether they report to the office or work from home, they will feel valued.
Benefits of Hybrid Work Model
Now that we’ve addressed various ways to start implementing a hybrid work model, let’s now look into the top advantages.
Better work-life balance
A vital aspect of a healthy working environment, work-life balance helps provide stability and reduces stress which can have a negative impact on employees’ physical and mental well-being.
Companies that put work-life balance first develop a healthy and productive workforce while also assisting the bottom line.
With a hybrid model, your employees can balance their personal lives with their professional responsibilities. When working from home, people can manage their day in a way that suits their lifestyle and responsibilities. This lets them stay on top of their day-to-day life, which can result in better focus and productivity when they’re working.
Productivity is a result of greater flexibility, increased focus, and reduced absenteeism. Remote work gives employees more control over their day-to-day work, especially if a company puts more stock in output instead of fixed schedules. This then makes them more focused during their work hours, especially since office distractions — like a chatty coworker — is minimised.
Due to increased engagement, absenteeism can also be reduced. Instead of taking an entire day off when an employee is slightly unwell or has personal commitments, they may still be able to work a part day utilising their remote working environment.
Access to more talent
A survey recently conducted by McKinsey shows that 80% of respondents reported that they prefer working from home. Many have now adjusted to the benefits of remote work, and a lot of potential employees are more likely to look for companies that offer flexibility of work location in the future. This is especially true of professionals with in-demand skills who are equally effective whilst working remotely.
A hybrid work model allows businesses to tap into a greater talent pool. They can attract more diverse and skilled employees from a wider range of geographical locations than is usually the norm.
Improved trust within the organisation
A crucial aspect of an effective work environment is trust between employers and their employees. A flexible work setup gives team members a chance to show managers that they can be as — or even more — productive working from home than in the office. This establishes trust within the company.
By helping employees feel empowered by the leadership team to accomplish their work in the best way they see fit, this could also improve staff loyalty.
Whilst this has become something of a tired adage, the “new normal” is here to stay, and enterprises of all sizes must make the necessary changes and find the right balance to ensure they’re prepared for this new era of business continuity – and opportunity.
If you need assistance or guidance on how to plan and develop a hybrid workspace, Contour Interiors now offers a free workplace strategy session with one of our senior advisors. Contact us to book a session and let us know how we can assist you.
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