The increase in the hybrid workforce has forced the traditional office to adapt. Companies are now trying out moveable furniture and updated videoconferencing software like Teams and Zoom to better accommodate the modern workplace. All of this require a much more intense focus on an integrated Workplace Management approach.
With summer on the way, knowledge workers have been making the change back to the physical office at least for part of the day. Employees who are able to work from home are spending more time in the office, but only by a small amount. The average number of days they expected to go into an office each week rose to 2.4, up from just under two last year.
But with still a significant number of employees resisting the daily commute, more and more companies are realising how important it is to strike a balance between working off-site and in the office. The hybrid office needs to deal with employees spread out across different types of spaces interacting with those in remote locations. This means that many companies have either downsized or ditched their office all together with others investing in new office features that allow for more flexibility depending on what they need and when they need it.
The famous Swiss French architect Le Corbusier once described the house as "a machine for living in", by extension it could be said that the office was therefore designed as a machine for working in.
However, poor workplace spaces have disenfranchised employees who in a matter of months have sadly build a better workplace at home and largely at their own cost. That’s a shocking indictment of the 150 year evolution of the office and those responsible for designing and managing them.
Many firms are starting to cut back on perks for their employees since more people are choosing to stay remote and not come into the office anymore. Whilst this is understandable it is important that we recognise that the office “machine” he is no longer a place for working in as would be recognised by Frederick Winslow Taylor. It's become a hub for collaboration and connection. Consequently, for those hybrid companies or those who don't offer many on-site perks, it's not necessary to base the business in a central location.
However it would be a misrepresentation to portray the office as a social club. Whilst there will need to be a social element it is important that there be individual focus work areas.
It is highly unlikely that these would be in full use every day but it is clear that the lack of privacy in open plan offices has been one of its major downfalls.
To create a space that is productive, you need to separate the focus areas from collaborative areas. The key is signalling clearly but subtly which activity each space is geared towards and providing easy access to both.
These spaces should be equipped with furniture and walls that can be adapted easily to accommodate the projects occupants are working on during the week. You don't need to have a budget the size of Google to achieve this, and this can be done in your existing facility.
Flexibility is the key for any company with a hybrid work setup. A lot of big firms are forgoing assigned cubicles, according to Steelcase's survey that found that 89% of U.S. organisations with 10,000+ employees are switching to more unassigned workstations.
Organisations need to be careful that remote workers are not at a disadvantage and it is possible to set them up for success by instigating and implementing successful virtual leadership practices.
The issue of providing good collaboration tools when some employees are in the office, and others are working from home is another concern for companies that don't have a unified technology strategy.
Tools like Skype and Slack can make it possible to collaborate seamlessly between those two spaces, but they're still technologies that need an investment of time and resources.
The downside to hybrid meetings is that in-person attendees may feel like they're just another faceless person, while remote attendees are unable to get a sense of what's happening.
Microsoft has said its new approach to Teams may help “emulate a more lifelike experience in the room.” They are hoping that mimicking human behaviour will make it seem more natural.
Some companies are embracing the hybrid workplace, allowing for remote work opportunities. This can be both a good and a bad thing--while it's great to have a choice, it also means co-workers may be willing to search for better opportunities elsewhere.
Employees want to go to work when work is worth their time and they're not wasting hours in a sweatshop environment. They will be much more eager to show up if the prospect of being productive and working with friends is on the line!
The number one concern for most workers is flexibility in the workplace. Businesses who can find creative solutions that still allow a great deal of independence to employees may reap the benefits in the coming months.
Simply re-opening your office doors is not enough to offer a successful work policy. Today's office needs to be worth the commute of employees.