Occupiers will need to embrace the new freedom of choice in the space and pace that we work, creating an office that's much more than it was in the past.
As 2020 draws to a close, many businesses are understandably still coming to terms with the changes sweeping our workplaces.
Based on my conversations with occupier clients and colleagues, people are grappling with some big questions: Working from home is here to stay, but how many days a week? Is it up to individual employees to choose or governed by company policy? How much office space do we really need now to cater to a distributed workforce?
And perhaps the biggest question of all – is the office as we knew it a thing of the past?
I recently had the pleasure of moderating an online panel hosted by CoreNet Global with workplace decision-makers from a range of backgrounds within the corporate real estate industry that tackled these very issues. Several insights came from our discussion as organisations assess workplace strategies for a new era.
The office will remain integral as a space to fuel collaboration and foster human interaction
The office is still integral to collaboration...
Let’s get the biggest question out of the way first: Panellists agreed that the office will remain integral for a long time to come.
Employers want to ensure the spaces in which they’ve invested are used to fuel collaboration and to foster human interaction, which despite all the advancements in digital platforms, are still best done face to face.
Employees, too, inevitably desire to maintain access to the office for both practical and emotional reasons. The office is where they have all the resources needed to succeed at their jobs, and where they go to both carve out their professional identities and socialise.
"Employers want to ensure the spaces in which they’ve invested are used to fuel collaboration and to foster human interaction."
Our research shows that people thrive in an environment in which they feel they belong, and this provides them with a sense of community and shared purpose. These experiences, like collaboration, are difficult – if not impossible – to replicate outside of the office.
What people miss about working in the office, based on Colliers' recent Work from Home Experience survey
… But the office will need to be reinvented
At the same time, the experience we’ve gained with the work-from-home model means the office will increasingly serve a different purpose.
This is a critical distinction that means companies can be much nimbler in the way they set the priorities of the workspace and seamlessly manage employees across multiple locations.
"People thrive in an environment in which they feel they belong, and this provides them with a sense of community and shared purpose. These experiences… are difficult – if not impossible – to replicate outside of the office."
Business leaders should consider who needs to be in the office and how often. By blending work-from-home, work-from-anywhere and work-from-office policies, and by rotating teams and optimising offices for more flexible working styles, companies can use space more efficiently and provide employees the balance of experiences they crave.
The future-ready office will be defined by open, configurable environments, where space and furniture are regularly rearranged to serve different purposes, and technology is ubiquitous both within and beyond the premises, to connect employees to available workspaces and colleagues wherever they may be.
The future of the office will be defined by open spaces and configurable environments to serve different purposes
As one of the panellists pointed out, this will require close coordination between functions such as HR, facilities management and IT. The office must also evolve to support employees in their pursuit of wellness and meaningful interactions.
Offerings like fitness facilities and wellness sessions can drive home the point that the office offers experiences that simply cannot be replaced at home.
Embrace the new freedom of choice
Panellists also felt the expanding definition of the workplace would create more freedom for both employers and employees.
Businesses – no longer so dependent on large, centralised spaces – will be able to introduce more variety and elasticity into their office portfolios.
"By blending work-from-home, work-from-anywhere and work-from-office policies… Companies can use space more efficiently and provide employees the balance of experiences they crave."
Employees will have more autonomy to adjust work arrangements to personal circumstances and will enjoy experience-rich office environments, enhancing work-life balance and, by extension, productivity and performance.
With reinvention comes the necessity to make the office space much more than it was in past. The future office will be not just a workspace, but an exhibition set with reconfigurable pieces to curate a wide variety of functions and events – a place where employees can seek social interaction, or a quiet refuge to focus and recharge.
Not just a workspace: The future office will be a place where employees can collaborate, as well as refocus and recharge
As businesses rethink how to create future-proof real estate assets, and new ways to measure employees’ performance, it is clear to me that the office is far from dead. I’m encouraged to say the office will continue to thrive as we find ourselves gravitating to this space that anchors our professional identity, individual sense of belonging and team togetherness.
For more of our market-leading insights and to see what could be for your future office, please contact me to explore how our Workplace Advisory team can help you create a holistic workplace environment and cultivate your real estate portfolios for the future.
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