In the post COVID-19 workplace, the office setting has become a competitive parameter to retain and attract the likes of all of us that have grown accustomed to a flexible workday.
At year-end, Colliers conducted a survey confirming that both homeworking and the office are here to stay. Although public debate has long been characterised by an “either-or” mindset, the reality, on the heels of two years of pandemic in the labour market, is “both-and”.
In the survey, 79% of the 350 survey respondents stated that their workplace either leaves it up to the workers to decide if they want to take homeworking days, or even encourage homeworking.
We are now scheduling our workdays on a completely different level than we used to. As for workers performing their tasks at home, workplace confidence runs high, gradually breaking away from the conservative approach of the past.
In addition, 90% stated that tasks requiring the focused concentration of one individual are just as well performed in the home office as in the workplace.
Conversely, homeworking seems to have a detrimental effect on mainly social relations, leadership and in some instances the sense of loyalty towards the workplace. It is a stumbling block for both efficient teamwork, on-boarding and knowledge sharing. 96% of respondents stated that tasks requiring a team effort are best performed in the workplace.
Office design required to support the hybrid workplace
When workplace attendance is not required but optional, the design of the office and its function as part of working life have become more important for businesses’ ability to retain and attract talent.
We, the Occupier Services team at Colliers, have experienced this trend first-hand with our clients. As architects, we encounter a real and growing demand on the part of businesses for rethinking their available space.
We are not necessarily seeing an actual reduction in space requirements; however, the importance of individual height-adjustable desks has given way to a call for more – and more spacious – social areas as well as project/team zones.
Smaller meeting rooms and the office quiet zone or “focus room” have become exceptionally popular. Each are in their own way required to support hybrid meetings merging physical and digital teams working from multiple locations in Denmark and abroad.
The focus on hybrid options applies also to the choice of working practices and the very style of office design. This means a homey feel, appealing materials, more colours, good acoustics, soft shapes, and a warm and welcoming ambience.
The boundaries between the home office and the professional environment have become blurred, putting people at the centre of every decision.
Another phenomenon witnessed by many businesses in the aftermath of the pandemic is that it has become more difficult to retain and attract talent. Not because workers find new jobs but because they increasingly prioritise taking a break during their working life rather than putting it off to retirement age.
The movement has been dubbed The Great Resignation, with resignation not entailing job hopping but a career break.
In this respect, the office is taking on a crucial organisational role. The physical workplace must offer flexible employment terms and learn to accept CV gaps – but it must certainly also serve as the physical centre and knowledge repository for organisational culture.
The challenge of the new movement and the hybrid model, entailing that we do not meet at the office and participate in social events daily, may well be more detached workplace relationships.
As a result, businesses increasingly want to demonstrate a keener focus on the physical setting, the social aspect, the business location as well as the activities, functions and services that make up an office where you like to spend time.
The most successful businesses are those where top management via the office design clearly signals its support for the need for breaks and a varied workday, effectively “nurturing the employees”.
Some upgrade coffee and lunch perks, others arrange for a gaming or recreation room, complete with PlayStation, foosball, table tennis and VR headsets. Others again have adopted the walk’n talk practice from the days of lockdown and social distancing requirements.
Services are the new black, and not only traditional perks such as massage, lunch, hairdressing, dry cleaning, and bicycle repairs, but even takeaway food, groceries, parcel boxes, mental health services, and a range of other items from the hospitality scene have been gaining ground in office environments.
In brief, well-being and balance have become a competitive parameter to attract and retain workers at a time when it is typically neither a written nor unwritten rule that you clock in between the hours of 8am and 4pm.
Speaking as an architect and tenant representative, my advice is to adapt to a new reality revolving around well-being and balance. Introduce more colours and natural materials in the design of the office. Your workplace should be designed to “nudge” employee behaviour, support the corporate culture and the company brand as well as create a more tactile, homey and welcoming atmosphere.
The office needs to be a place where you want to spend time as a human being, colleague, and worker. A place we “miss” when we take focus days in the home office.