James Farrant, managing partner at Hampshire-based fit-out and refurbishment company, Axis House, explores the issues and opportunities around office, home and hybrid working in the post-pandemic world.
In one sense the challenge facing the business owner and employer today is nothing new.
For decades we have grappled with getting the best return on investment in terms of the space we occupy and in terms of staff productivity and engagement.
The rapid development of technology and the deeper understanding and focus on wellness has certainly helped shape the debate in the 2000’s, and the workspace today is, in some ways, the best it has ever been.
However, the year 2020 may well be viewed in years to come as a seminal moment in the development of the modern workspace.
With the swift, unexpected closure of offices necessitating a rapid change to homeworking for vast swathes of the population, technology, management, and collaboration styles have often been stretched to their limits and beyond.
What has emerged, however, is the indisputable fact that for many, the forced move away from the traditional workspace five days a week and into a homeworking scenario, has been refreshing, liberating, and empowering.
Extensive surveys such as those by Leesman show that workers feel they are in fact better supported and more productive in their home environment than in the office. With 85% stating a preference for a blended or ‘hybrid’ workplace model which includes remote work for at least two days per week.
So strong is this sentiment, future career choices and loyalty might well be dependent on offering this flexibility.
While some clearly thrive when working from home; others can’t wait to get back to the office and for many employees and employers, the office remains an essential and necessary part of working life.
With most offices currently designed around the idea of people being fixed to a desk five days a week, perhaps now a more fluid and flexible style is required.
Certainly, the Leesman study showed that where the home environment excelled particularly in supporting focused work, conversely it was sorely lacking in support for social interaction, hosting clients, collaboration and informal learning.
With lack of social connection being a major contributor to stress and depression, maintaining connectedness is key to a successful hybrid model.
A focus for businesses going forward, therefore, needs to be on bringing people together in intentional ways and creating spaces that employees WANT to return to.
For staff productivity, engagement, and retention, it is important to get the workplace right.
Before rewriting your workplace strategy based on a few general statistics, take the time to unpick the learnings from your specific homeworking experience – starting with asking the right questions.
How do your staff work throughout the day? When and how often do they need quiet focus and how do they collaborate? How will you bring teams together to connect ideas? How do you engage with visitors?
Getting to the heart of how they work, what infrastructure they need and how your workplace can better support them is what will drive a successful workplace strategy.
Technology is inevitably going to play a significant part in this.
Ensuring scattered teams can connect effectively ‘in the moment’ is fundamental for the success of a hybrid workplace model. Are those hastily adopted tech solutions of the previous year, the best solutions to take you forward?
As workspace experts for over 35 years, we have no doubt that the companies that embrace the change, celebrate the liberation, and encourage the empowerment of a new working style, will be those that move ahead of their competition.
Book a free 60-minute consultation to explore the possibilities within your workplace.