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Renovate to innovate: Revamping the office for future success

Hybrid work, Work from home, Flexible work, Office real estate

Learnings from the Covid-19 pandemic have led companies to develop new ways of working and engaging their people, redefining the purpose of the office along the way. As the rise of “hybrid” work empowers employees to work where they deem best for their performance and productivity, the role of the workplace continues to evolve and will open up avenues for innovation through office renovation.

 

The Covid-19 pandemic has pushed companies to reassess the use of the office as the nature of their operations and activities changed. Before the pandemic, most office spaces were designed based on functionality: desks, floor plans, and furniture were arranged on the premise that performance and productivity were directly proportionate to time spent by the employees in the office. Other pre-pandemic office design trends included modernization, densification, and configuration towards a more “open” layout as the barrier between senior leaders and young associates gradually subsided.

This trend was somewhat altered when, during the height of lockdowns, many organizations transitioned to a work-from-home (WFH) arrangement. For several companies, employees’ productivity and performance remained at an acceptable level with the WFH setup. While openness towards remote work was boosted by the pandemic (perhaps out of necessity), the office remains essential for face-to-face interactions, which are still needed to cultivate culture and personal connections among employees.

In fact, many Filipinos have expressed their willingness to return to the office. In a study conducted by PhilCare from September 4 to 20, 2021, 48.7% of survey respondents said they were willing to take on hybrid work arrangements in the next 6 months, 35% said they would continue going back to their workplaces, while 16% would work entirely from their homes. In terms of current work arrangements, 49.9% of survey respondents said they work entirely in their respective work sites, 36.2% work both at home and on-site, while 13.9% work entirely at home.

Given this, companies are starting to reassess how their employees should interact with the office space. As such, the design features of the office should evolve in accordance with shifting work dynamics, such as hybrid working arrangements that look to be here to stay. Thus, companies can innovate by renovating the office based on how they will engage their employees and conduct their activities.

Why renovate

Many business leaders believe that hybrid work is here to stay. However, one challenge with this type of setup is that office needs are highly fluid as the number of employees coming in on a particular day may vary. Pre-pandemic, employees could come into the office and occupy their assigned desk. Designing the office and planning operations were more straightforward when the number of people in the office did not drastically fluctuate from day to day (not to mention surges in Covid-19 cases that led people to stay at home and create more uncertainty). Now that more employees are being given the option to work anywhere, this level of flexibility creates more complexity in planning the optimal office ecology. With this, businesses must reassess and reconfigure their offices to adapt to these unprecedented changes, retain a sense of safety in the workplace, and create the ideal work environment that will lead to better performance and employee engagement.

Thus, Colliers recommends for companies to evaluate the possible benefits of renovating the office with the following considerations in mind:

1. Ventilation and air-filtration systems

Health experts have emphasized the importance of ventilation to minimize the risk of transmitting Covid-19. The absence of proper air circulation allows coronavirus-containing aerosols to stay suspended in the air longer than they should and reduces the safety of the workplace.

2. Office ecology

How different teams should be positioned relative to each other and how you plan for them to interact is crucial when planning out your renovation as the goal is to make the workplace more productive and efficient across different business functions.

3. Current pain points of your office space

Assess the condition of your workstations, fit-out, electrical systems, and plumbing to see what needs work. Talk to your employees – they’ll be more than willing to provide feedback on how the office can help them work better.

4. Transform every space to a workspace with collaboration areas

Consider huddle or informal meeting areas to encourage collaboration while maximizing the use of your office space.

5. Wellness areas

Allocate spaces where employees can conduct activities that are beneficial to their well-being such as a quiet “inspiration” room where employees can take a breather or even open spaces where groups can exercise together.

6. Renovation costs

Talk to a project consultant/fit-out contractor to conduct a test fit-out to determine what needs improvement in your office space and what solutions can be implemented while staying within your budget.

Colliers View

As a semblance of normalcy starts to return in the Philippines and around the world, employers are already implementing or planning their employees’ return to office. The office setup will shift to a workplace that integrates collaboration and social interaction while still prioritizing everyone’s well-being and adapting to the flexibility that employees now have and want to maintain.

Renovating the office is part of a larger shift that companies must be proactive towards: changing work dynamics, cultural norms, and a competitive hiring landscape where the office says a lot about the company. Colliers encourages companies to reassess their current office in terms of space optimization and flexibility to changing cultural/operational considerations. How people collaborate and perform work have changed forever and the workplace must be agile and adaptable to these changing work dynamics.

In a piece by Jim Keane and Todd Heiser published in Harvard Business Review, they wrote that companies that choose a “wait-and-see” approach risk frustrating their employees who find that the old office no longer supports the new ways they work. This in turn jeopardizes the competitive advantages of bringing people together. Companies that adapt to the changes brought upon by unprecedented events will be able to retain their existing talent and even attract the best ones. Colliers believes that how the workplace is designed and used reflects the behavior and culture of an organization. Companies are encouraged to capitalize on the opportunity to renovate based on insights gained during the pandemic, which will ultimately drive innovation towards success and people engagement.


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