With a hybrid way of working, offices will change their purpose, they will be places where targeted activities will take place, involving workers, customers and managers. They will not be the default place for all activities, especially those that require concentration work. These are aspects that are involving the re-design of the office, and which also take into account the wishes and needs of the employees.
In this article, we will focus our attention on the future purpose of the workplace in a hybrid world. Something we had already talked about in the article on the smart office.
Remote work is already a prevalent reality in some work environments
To help us understand how the workplace will physically change, this time there is also some research data by the strategic consulting firm Gartner with an analysis that focuses on understanding what are the spaces to support digital workers.
The home office (i.e., working from home or away from the office at least one day a week) has become a permanent feature for many businesses. According to Gartner’s predictions for remote and hybrid workers, 47% of workers in the communications and technology sphere will work remotely by 2022, up from 27% in 2019.
And what are the consequences? 72% of executives report that corporate real estate assets will shrink by 2022, so shared workstations will increase. Workplace design will move from providing workstations to supporting socialisation and personal collaboration.
How to rethink the workplace?
What are the next steps to take for companies that are careful to develop talents of their employees and rethink the working environment? Drafting a work environment strategy, developing short- and long-term plans; research what employees want and need from the workplace and personal experiences. Following trends in how each person uses space with resource planning applications and space usage tracking technologies, identify the best design project for the intended purpose of each individual office or company function; accelerate employee training on how to use the new work environment and create improvements in the work environment together with employees, making them actively participate in experimentation-learning-interaction cycles.
More work from home, less office space
Most companies are streamlining their corporate real estate assets and reducing real estate and facility expenses as a result of hybrid work. The hybrid model will change the office design more. The office is no longer the default workspace for head-on and solo work. Most employees prefer a mix of office and remote work in hybrid models. Therefore, it is necessary to consider how and when the employees will choose the office. What experiences can the corporate office offer? What experiences it can best support?
In the future, the workplace will become the place for engagement rather than purely for productivity. Most pre-pandemic workplaces were designed to accommodate workstations for all roles and types of work. Now, when the home office proves to be equally effective for many types of work, the workplace will become a tool for engaging employees in unique and corporate culture experiences.
This shift in focus will lead to profound changes in the way space is used. Unsurprisingly, a hybrid workplace will have fewer workstations and more shared seating.
Gartner surveys of corporate real estate leaders found a three-fold increase in shared seating from before the pandemic to after 36% of respondents said most of their workers will not have a dedicated desk in a year or two.
Co-creating new workplace habits with your employees
Most employees are used to going to the office to do targeted work. And even if they do their work at home now, they won’t automatically understand the flip side of remote and hybrid work, which is that the office will become a loyalty tool. The offices will be used for activities such as interacting with colleagues, engaging in creativity and participating in the business community, rather than solely for productivity. 45% of executives say their employees don’t have a clear vision or understanding of the future purpose of the workplace.
The old assumptions and related habits will not change by themselves. Consequently, business leaders must guide managers on how to think about the workplace and encourage employees to co-create new usage examples and rules on when, why and how to use the workplace.