A strategic return-to-office for the world’s workforce will require a change in mindset, approach, behavior, and space. Despite a flurry of ever-changing rules and regulations, employees are ready to get back into the workplace. Business leaders are seeking best practices.

Over the last year, workspaces have been retrofitted with safety in mind. But what comes next? We have some insights on that.

DESIGNING FOR PRODUCTIVITY

Open-plan offices of the past lacked support for employee’s focus. Moving forward, organizations will benefit from creating multimodal spaces that support collaboration and focus work equally.

Post-pandemic workspaces should offer areas for effective team collaboration, heads-down focus work zones, and easy access to tools and resources for employees to stay productive. Privacy pods, workbooths, and modular seating are great product solutions that offer employees a range of work modes.

DESIGNING FOR COMMUNITY

In our remote-working reality, employees are missing their coworkers and the sense of belonging that their workspaces used to provide them. Organizations will need to rethink the purpose of their office from simply a workplace to becoming the infrastructure for building social capital and fostering a sense of purpose and belonging.

As employees return, offices can foster this feeling by offering spaces designed to encourage employee engagement and interaction. Communal areas like cafes, game rooms, and bleacher-style seating meeting spaces provide employees with a gathering place to collaborate with their coworkers and access to a sense of belonging that they were missing while working remotely.

DESIGNING FOR FLEXIBILITY

The pandemic has taught us that companies need to embrace flexibility. The workplaces of the future will utilize multi-use spaces that will support diverse types of activities.

These spaces will use furnishings that easily move to allow settings to expand and contract, supporting distancing needs when necessary and accommodating different-size groups and activities seamlessly. Mixed location teams will collaborate in uninterrupted harmony with integrated technology solutions, like e-meeting rooms, with screens preset for video conferencing.

With a few tweaks like these, offices can morph and change to serve employees’ ever-changing needs and expectations in the post-pandemic work world.

Download our complete guide on “What’s Next In the Workplace” here.

Learn more from Steelcase’s Global Report: Employee expectations have changed. Is your workplace ready?

Empire’s Director of Strategic Partnerships Elizabeth Irizarry co-hosted a special podcast along with special guests Steven Burgos, Senior Associate | Design Director at Gensler Miami, and Randy Carballo, EVP at Blanca Commercial Real Estate, on the topic of The Future of Work, It’s Complicated.

The spirited conversation touched on many interesting topics related to where many of us find ourselves today – navigating the hybrid work environment and what’s to come for the future of offices. 

Top of mind for many companies in planning their return to work is a space that enables flexibility and agility. All speakers agreed that in order for companies to transition their workforce back into the office effectively, there needs to be an apparent reason for them to come back, and the space must provide for a specific purpose. The days of going into an office to “punch a timecard” are gone; now, employees are coming in to get something they can’t get at home. Whether it’s meeting with clients, collaborating with coworkers, or participating in a shared experience, the office can still serve a purpose. However, the true intent of the office coming out of this pandemic will be something to continue to watch. Companies must be prepared to make adjustments as needed to best support their employees’ needs. 

Other changes include transforming the commercial office to function more as our home offices do. Heads-down time and focused work product improved for many during the pandemic with the ability to work from home. For companies looking to retain that spike in focus and productivity, an open office where all employees sit in a large space all together may not be the answer. Adding focus rooms or nooks can balance out the time spent collaborating amongst coworkers with the quiet, focused time we have become accustomed to at home.

Lastly, the speakers see technology continuing to play a huge role as we transition back to the office. The rise of Zoom was not limited to just the WFH era. As more and more companies roll out their hybrid workforce plans, many predict you’ll see even more need for technology that can connect both virtual and in-person conferencing. In addition, spatial intelligence technology will be even more critical to monitor space usage within the office, enabling companies to make better decisions regarding the design of their space based on actual data. 

Overall, there is a greater focus on worker wellness, health and wellbeing after one of the most challenging periods many of us have faced in our lifetimes. Providing employees the freedom to work where they do it best, along with making company-specific decisions on bringing everyone back together, remains a considerable challenge and highlights a paradox in workplace planning that won’t be solved overnight.

As the speakers suggest, there is no “one size fits all” approach, and every company’s needs are very different. The question is not whether we need more or less office space but rather: why are my employees coming into the office? As Steven pointed out, this can be a massive opportunity for companies to impact change within their workforce and create a more productive and innovative environment. 

At Empire Office, we are excited to play a role in planning the future of work with our clients and industry partners such as Gensler and Blanca Real Estate. There is no doubt that we will indeed feel the trends and impacts of this pandemic era for years to come. 

To listen to the full podcast, use the following link and select your preferred platform: https://linktr.ee/Infiniteattraction.

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