Thoughts on the Future of the Workplace

Autonomy and Structure

There’s no doubt that the pandemic has accelerated a new way of working for the majority of us and employers have learned to trust their employees to still get the job done without necessarily being in the same physical space as them.

There has been an increase in the focus on what’s important to each person, and how they would like to use the office. The autonomy of choosing how, when and where you work is great, but there needs to be a balance with a degree of structure being provided by the organisation.

When COVID hit, most office-based workers went from working at the office (the majority of the week) to then working from home and in isolation for a long time. We haven’t yet been able to experience the ‘hybrid working model’ that is so frequently talked about.

Culture and Connection

As was true pre-pandemic to now, there is no simple answer for how the workspace should function. Each organisation is individual and has specific goals and desires for where that they want to be in the next 5-10 years. The physical space of the office needs to work hand in hand with culture of the company and it does seem that considerations regarding culture, well- being and how team members interact with one another has evolved during the past 12 months.

One thing that is apparent, is that as humans, we want to connect with each other and collaborate. Whilst Zoom and Teams have their benefits there are limitations such as not being able to read body language, not picking up on visual cues, or not knowing when to talk, as to avoid speaking over others.

The water cooler moments that happen naturally in the office don’t happen anymore, which can be valuable for building relationships and sparking ideas, and there has been an impact on new starters. So many people have joined companies during the pandemic and have never met their colleagues.

This reduces the opportunities to share knowledge and the casual “can I just ask you something” questions which are key for development in a new role. Similarly, the social side is lost and these are two really valuable areas that need to
be thought about, especially for the Millennial generation, who make up the largest part of the workforce.

In order to move forward, businesses need to take this opportunity to listen to the people who use their workspaces, and for us, it’s all about human centric design with the recognition that your workspace must support your team in their day-to-day tasks. Surveys are a great way to gain an understanding of how your team feel about going back to the office.

Flexible Working

Through various surveys we’ve collated with clients, the general theme is that the majority of people are saying that they will work in the office Tuesday – Thursday. This presents a possible circumstance where the workspace is left dormant for two days of the week. It’s also creates a potential juxtaposition where a business may claim, “we have flexible working, but you must be in the office these days!”

Flexible working does have many benefits and employers should be providing the support and technology so that their staff can work when, where and how they see fit. However, the challenge that a truly flexible approach brings is that actually it requires need more organising and effort! If one colleague wants to meet another in the office for a chat, it needs to be “booked” in with them to make sure it fits their schedule because they could be working from home or a coffee shop! This is why there is a need of some structure that is implemented by the company so that the team understands where the flexibility lies.

Solutions That Suit You

The workplace is constantly evolving, mainly due to technology and individual wellbeing. But some design principles pre-covid still remain, as there will always be a need to provide the key fundamental spaces to work such as focus, collaborative, meeting and social spaces. And it is still important that a company’s new workspace reflects the culture and people who use it.

There is not one size fits all or a single solution to the future workspace. It must work for each individual business and considerations to wellbeing and structure need to be implemented.

To discuss how we can support you with the future of your own workspace, please get in touch on 0117 231 0077 and speak with one of the team!