The Experiments in Reimagining the Future of Work (I): Why Office is Indispensable
Although the employees have well adapted to the work from home setup, employers just couldn’t get enough out of it. Since last year, we’ve seen headlines of big companies urging their employees to join The Great Return to Office. Though we see the benefits brought by personal interaction in the office, it wasn’t quite enough to get staff away from their couches at home.
So the big question remains: Is going back to the office still worth it? In this series of blog posts, we are going to tackle critical points on the importance of office spaces and how to make them more inviting by using the most celebrated employee-led office designs of today. On top of that, you will also learn the steps in implementing them in your company. First, let’s deep dive into the reason for the existence of offices.
How Going Back to the Office is Still Relevant
In a survey by Adecco Group, 2020, 28% of organisations claimed their teams would be permanently based in the office, while 50% said they would not hire permanent remote workers. This means that physical office spaces are still relevant to a good share of companies, especially industries who value information confidentiality.
We are listing a few staunch benefits provided by the office, and their value is covid proof:
1. Offices keep work and home life separate
According to a survey of 2,800 workers conducted by staffing business Robert Half, 45% of the respondents said they work more hours during the week than they did previously while in office. This means that there is only a thin line between the work and personal lives of the employees, and going back to the office will separate them, by switching off the work mode when walking out the office.
2. Offices connect people
Office spaces connect people deeper. Those casual chitchats that come out naturally at coffee machines and water coolers give rise to bond building and personal relationships, which answer social needs. Simply put, being physically present at the office makes connecting to people a lot easier and is much more helpful to establish a closer relationship with the in-person story exchanges.
3. Offices influence company culture
Being physically present at the office creates a “work mode” mood among employees that boosts concentration and ownership of their job roles. However, the office is more than just work. Working at the office also impacted the company’s reputation by hiring and retaining talents. Without a physical space, it would be difficult to implement activities and practices that create a strong company culture.
4. Offices promote professional development and reduce “virtual anxieties.”
Office spaces promote professional development in a sense that when employees come to any crossroad, they can immediately check with their managers. Hence, these virtual anxieties about work will be avoided if they work in a physical space together.
Office spaces are indeed still important as they bring irreplaceable benefits to employees and companies. However, as the new norm of work is currently being driven by remote working, it might be harder for employers to convince their employees to go back to the office. To make office spaces look more inviting and functional, they should be designed to accommodate the current work conditions that answer the psychological needs of employees while balancing efficiency and productivity.
With lots of employees switching to remote working and have adapted well to the digital environment, it would be uneasy to win them back in office and work 9-6 like before. Therefore, in an effort by the management to entice employees to go back to the work desk, workspaces must be designed to appeal to their internal users. It can be done by changing the existing company policies or even the floor plan itself. Employees in the post-pandemic workforce want to be able to work when and where they want, be able to balance their work and personal lives, and not be confined to a cubicle all the time… these are a few advices commonly found in research studies; however leaders has to dig deeper into the specific needs of employees as each company is unique.
As we look into the market for reference, we found that most of the celebrated work and office setups today are employee-led, a new and improvised office setup to meet the current work conditions and answer unspoken employees’ needs. This bottom up redesign has proven to boost productivity, improve team collaboration, lower turnover rates and offer a competitive advantage on new hires.
In the foregoing article on this topic, we will dig deeper into some of the employee-led office designs and how they are designed to suit the current remote work norm with two case studies in the market. We will also share with you the steps in building employee-led office designs.