As companies start their gradual (and hopefully irreversible) transition back to the office, many are still unsure exactly what the future looks like. The expectations of staff and clients have changed dramatically over recent months. Many companies and workforces look entirely different to what they were 2 short years ago.
The fact is, however, that very few significant workspace trends to emerge post-pandemic are actually new. Many were either niche or embryonic topics that have been catapulted into the limelight by social isolation, remote working, and the sheer quantity of change we have all experienced over the last 18 months.
Working from home was often heralded as the future, but very few employees did it regularly. Video meetings were becoming ever more popular but were rarely used for important get-togethers. Despite lip-service paid to hybrid working, organisations were firmly rooted in the way they had operated for the last 10 years.
The remote working ‘mass experiment’ enforced on companies all over the world taught us all valuable lessons about the future of work. Hybrid working is now becoming accepted as the new way of working for companies across the globe - combining working from home with working from the office. It balances employee needs with the goals of the company, as well as ensuring the company culture and vision, staff productivity, and staff wellbeing are all maintained in an effective way.
Extensive collaboration and research from thousands of business leaders within the UK, and around the globe, show that the Covid-19 pandemic has brought several key influences on our future working model and office to the top of the agenda. Here are 3 key workspace trends that have been accelerated over the last 18 months and are now driving the future of workspace:
To the surprise of many, productivity and motivation levels remained strong right through the sudden transition to remote working last March. Over the last 12 months however, our understanding of the nuances of remote working has increased. Remote working is great for focussed tasks, where staff are working alone on projects and need privacy and the chance to concentrate. But the collaborative and complex tasks that require spontaneous interaction is much more effective in person.
This means that employers and employees alike have a newfound appreciation of how different work is best done in different environments. With 62% of staff wanting a hybrid approach to work, and 35% looking to return to the office for collaborative work, there is a clear shift in how people perceive their working location options. No longer is the office even default – all options are open, and what matters is output, rather than physical presence.
Hybrid workers have been shown to feel greater job satisfaction and engagement, while also being more innovative and productive. With this in mind, offering your people the ability to work across multiple locations will have significant benefits for their productivity and your profitability.
The benefits for your people and your company of offering location flexibility has a massive side-effect: the way your people use your workspace completely changes. Those long rows of desks will now be almost unused, as staff sit in peace at a desk all day at home. Meanwhile, collaborative areas become overcrowded creating a noisy and unwelcoming environment, to say nothing of a serious health hazard.
Ensuring your workspace reflects and enhances the way your employees will use the space in the ‘new normal’ can have significant benefits for your people and their performance. By putting their needs and how they will use the space at the heart of your design, you can empower them to collaborate and innovate far more effectively, driving positive results for your business.
In order to create as many opportunities as possible for collaboration and innovation, your workspace design needs to have a variety of zones designed for specific types of activities, encouraging your people to move around throughout the day, meeting new colleagues and remaining mentally refreshed.
The modern office needs to be designed to adapt and evolve. Rather than having dedicated spaces for teams and tasks, it’s a more open environment with collaborative areas for interaction. It’s an office design that adapts to the needs of staff, rather than forcing them to conform to it.
If virtual collaboration seems difficult, then hybrid communication might feel like an insurmountable challenge. The risk of remote workers feeling excluded and becoming disengaged during meetings is very high, and this can have serious equality and inclusion issues for your business.
The effective use of technology and workspace design is essential to negate this risk, ensuring all of your people feel connected and inspired, wherever they are.
Smart tech-enabled spaces provide immersive experiences that make all your people feel like they are in the same space without reducing the level of virtual connections.
Zenconnect® Spaces are fully immersive video environments that allow the presenter and audience to come face-to-face in a virtual or hybrid setting. Using ground-breaking mixed-reality technology, it replaces the traditional green screen with real content. It allows the presenters and teams to engage with their content in a far more natural way without any broadcast training.
However you choose to achieve it, ensuring that the experience of remote workers matches (as closely as possible) the experience of those working in the office will have significant benefits for your teams. In an age where distributed workforces and clients are an inevitability, making sure your people have all the tools to communicate effectively will be essential to ensuring a bright future for your business.
The Workplace of the Future
As you consider the future of your workspace and the way your people work in the months and years ahead, an understanding of how these trends were not created but exacerbated by the pandemic will provide you with a different perspective. Many of your people will have been aware of such concepts as flexible working and hybrid communication, even if they didn’t use or understand these practices. This means that the transition to remote working and thence to hybrid working has been, and can continue to be, much smoother than many feared.
In the future, your office can act as a catalyst for collaboration and innovation, bringing your people together around a common purpose, driving productivity and profitability alike. As you place the needs of your people at the centre of your workspace, their performance and engagement will increase, driving productivity and profitability alike. Through flexibility, variety and hybrid communication, your space can reflect the needs of your people, empowering them to perform.
In a time of such change, you have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform the way you and your people work. As you place the needs of your people at the centre of your workspace, their performance and engagement will increase, enabling them to achieve amazing results for your company.
Want to know more about what the future of the office holds? Explore our Future Workspace, where we break down the key drivers of change in the workplace and how to define and deliver a high-performance workspace for your future.