What employees want in an office is changing. It's no longer just about design and tech. Now, the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted focus onto some of the cultures and working styles employees want from their offices.
After a year of working remotely, some employees may be ambivalent about returning to the office. Recently, as employers have begun to announce their plans for returning, employees have pushed back, asking executive teams to rethink the remote work structure.
When it comes to rethinking the post-pandemic office, it's important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all structure that can be implemented across industries and companies. However, there are some common things that employees want in their post-pandemic office setting that may help in designing and setting up a post-pandemic office that a team will love to work in.
An overarching theme in a post-pandemic office is an office culture that focuses on balance and wellbeing while giving employees the support they need to do their jobs.
According to The Harvard Business Review, one of the things that employees want most in an office is a sense of culture. Today, thoughts around what a corporate culture should look like are changing. While we won't do away with offices entirely, how they are set up and how they are populated will change.
Face-to-face interactions are important in a business, and that's especially true when you're onboarding new employees to a job. New hires often have a hard time grasping how a company or organization works and may have trouble fitting into the working style of their peers. Many companies are still struggling with how to onboard new hires and to find ways to intervene when it appears that a new employee is struggling.
Likewise, companies who have been working together for a long time may find their sense of community drifting if they're in an all-remote setting. Having coworkers engage frequently means that you can maintain the company culture and a feeling of connectivity that will help your coworkers focus and deliver better results.
There's a certain magic that comes from offices that foster collaboration. This is a key aspect of the office for junior employees who may just be learning a job or for onboarding new employees. This is the common refrain cited by employers who want workers to return to the office full-time. They believe that spontaneous meetings and collaboration are part of what drives innovation.
A recent article in The New York Times suggests that the chance hallway meetings are not the magic bullet of innovation and creativity that some CEOs would have you believe, but the value in the office is in conversation and different perspectives. This ties into diversity and inclusion practices as well as a better work-life balance.
This ties into a desire for flexibility that many employers are seeing their employees demand as some see how easy it is to work from home and innovate from anywhere.
Collaborative spaces take a lot of space. That may mean a loss of personal desk space at the expense of hot desks that workers can use on the days they're in the office. This may also help with de-densifying the office to ease post-pandemic congestion fears.
Quality Over Quantity
While working from home offers flexibility, some workers can face more pressure at home. Feeling like you constantly have to be on the clock can lead to burnout. This is leading some employees to want employers to look at how productivity is measured: quality over quantity.
This has an additional benefit to your employees' physical and mental health too.
In a CNN report, Curion CEO Sean Bisceglia said that productivity during COVID-19 skyrocketed. This could be a good thing, but the alarming part of this was the timestamps on emails. Bisceglia noticed that there were emails coming from his employees at 10 pm and 1 am, and he was starting to worry about burnout. He's hoping that when his workers return to the office, the balance of productivity and socializing will balance each other out. Unfortunately, many companies currently don't operate this way, and it requires a major shift in thinking.
One thing that 2020 has taught several companies is about the use of software to help manage a project. While Zoom has been important, innovations like Slack and Asana have also created equity for those who be shy at speaking up in meetings. This software is a huge boon for getting more diverse voices to the table, but it also goes beyond that.
An article in Forbes talks not just about the use of coworking spaces but also about the idea of opening the door to other technology in the future. For example, if collaboration spaces are going to eliminate the need for personal workstations, then perhaps WAN-integrated laptops will be issued by companies in the future or extended and virtual reality options will be taken into consideration to interface with employees from far away.
When remote work first took off, one of the big focuses was on how many fewer cars were being driven, but it didn't take into account the way that online shopping increased. While the office can be sustainable, an article in Entrepreneur Magazine also suggests taking steps to helping employees improve sustainability in their own lives.
Another article from Stanford suggests that employers lead by example, adopting sustainable practices and policies in their own lives as well as through the company policy.
Although many offices may continue to operate with a work-from-home option, all companies stand to benefit from prioritizing employee health and wellness through biophilic design. Now is the perfect time to be proactive about what the future of work will look like. It doesn't have to be more of the same. It can be better, brighter, more beautiful, more grounded, and healthier for employees, employers, and the world.