Offices of the future! Stay put and take note. That’s a lot for you to be prepared for.
Let’s face it. The COVID-19 pandemic came to put a stop to the conventional “office environment”. And even if there’s already a slight light of truce at the end of the tunnel, professionals are now considering how to face this idea of going back to the office. If some are dying to go back, others are quite reluctant.
With a home office concept, flexible working hours, new digital tools, this is the new office reality taking place.
The pandemic made us talk about these – so-called – offices of the future. But what’s in line with this new sense of reality and normality? What should we expect from it? What will come out of it? How is this impacting businesses and professionals?
Offices of the future: it’s on… now!
The pandemic shifted the way people around the world worked. While some stayed around in the office with a severe lack of people on-site and so many restrictions, some went completely remote.
Nowadays, while the pandemic is yet to be fully overcome, most people found new ways of staying connected while working, thus leading to the offices of the future, but also to the future of the office space.
Thinking about the biggest working campuses around the world and how they once were the most desired spaces to work in, nowadays, tables have turned, and things are now shifting into a new way of being at work and working.
In just two years, things changed. A lot! But let’s face it: change is (and always was) inevitable and it is driving evolution.
This new idea, it’s not in fact as new as we might think.
The remote working scenario was just sitting quietly in the background while people were discussing the importance of a work-life balance and flexibility. Just there, patiently waiting for its big entrance. The pandemic just accelerated things a bit, and it’s finally in the spotlight, being introduced as the offices of the future!
If on one hand, people are now adjusting to the new ways of work and finding the so-aimed balance, while discovering new methodologies, new tools, new chances to improve their skills and productivity; on the other hand, companies are adjusting their ways around this new scenario, implementing and providing new tools and mechanisms to secure both their teams and getting to their best selves.
How did the Pandemic shift the way people around the world work?
There was a time when the idea of an office was easy to picture: big open spaces crowded with rows of desks, a few individual offices and some meeting rooms, loads of people circling around. Well, this is not so basic anymore.
While some people have been anxiously waiting to go back to their former routines and to their daily commute, others not so much.
For the past two years, the simple fact of having to deal with masks, disinfectants, and social distancing, made it kind of bleak to think of small talk with our favourite coworker. Plus, professionals (particularly those who were desiring a bigger work-life balance), have discovered that remote work can help with that.
According to an article published by Adecco Group, “some workers are understandably reluctant to relinquish the greater control they have had over their working lives. Many workers hope to find a 50/50 split between home and office”. The same article states that “preferences are likely to range from the ‘super-teleworker’ who spends just one day in the office to the ‘office aficionado’ who spends five days at the office”.
So the big question we need to ask and answer is this one: is the ‘office aficionado’ better than the ‘super-teleworker’ or vice-versa?
Companies are now facing this major duality and trying their best to deal with it. And this is the new deal brought by these offices of the future. But it is as easy as to understand that, in order to, attract and/or retain a productive workforce, a change has to take place, so that this so-wanted flexibility gets to everyone.
This redesign is on the move and companies need to cater to both workers’ profiles.
Is it – perhaps – the end of tech campus culture?
Throughout time, big tech companies were arm-wrestling with the concept of bigger, more and better office working spaces.
Like eye candy for future employers, they brought the big guns, providing the most desirable perks, such as funny and comfortable social spaces, cereal from all over the world or sleeping accommodations in the office. The main idea was the more time people wanted to spend inside the office, the better.
For the time being and taking into account what has been happening, it’s not what the world – and job seekers – are looking for right now.
Nobody wants to be looking at amazing greeneries and having stunning views if they have to face any kind of limitations due to the required social distancing. In the same way, some professionals will easily choose to eliminate commuting to be able to spend a bit more time with their kids, for instance.
It is safe to say, that right now, remote work has never been more popular.
Reinforcing this idea is the fact that even if the global pandemic brought major setbacks, tech giants didn’t stop growing and profiting. Most of them, profited from new business opportunities generated by the pandemic, all while having their teams working remotely.
So since it didn’t have anything to do with the office time-spending, the question remains, is an office space really required?
The short and sweet answer: no.
With tech giants such as Twitter and Facebook allowing staff to work permanently from home, it’s not rocket science that this was the natural step to go to once the worst of the pandemic hit and other fellow tech companies followed suit. To quote Shopify’s CEO “Office centricity is over.”
Bye bye to the traditional and functional workspace!
Now it’s time to shift for these tech-oriented work offices while enforcing interactions, collaborations, and relationships among every type of employee (whether they’re in the office or miles away, working from home).
How? This is the next big question, followed by an easy and quick answer: technology as a central pivot for keeping everyone satisfied.
But let’s not sweeten the pill. This is not all good!
There are downsides as well. For companies, the major one is, of course, the costs involved. Changing these new models involves financial implications. Firstly, because – if there was not made already – companies need to adjust their offices, technologies and tools to the new model.
But there’s more to it. Even if they keep the traditional office configuration, given the pandemics, there’s a need for more office space to keep the safe social distance among employees (at least that’s what should be to keep everyone safe).
Offices of the future: just a trend or a reality?
Well, things are already happening. It’s safe to assume this is more than just a trend.
Previously to the pandemic, the 9 to 5 (6 in some countries, like Portugal) office reality stayed behind somewhere in 2020. But a recent study published by Microsoft shows that about 50% “of leaders say their company already requires or plans to require, full-time in-person work in the year ahead”.
But is this what professionals want?
The same report states that “hybrid work is up seven points year-over-year (to 38%), and 53% of people are likely to consider transitioning to hybrid in the year ahead”, which stays in line with what we have been saying. Plus, the study shows that “53% of employees are more likely to prioritize health and wellbeing over work than before the pandemic”.
If there was any doubt as the report puts it: “One thing is clear: We’re not the same people that went home to work in early 2020. The collective experience of the past two years has left a lasting imprint, fundamentally changing how we define the role of work in our lives. The data shows the Great Reshuffle is far from over. Employees everywhere are rethinking their “worth it” equation and are voting with their feet. And as more people experience the upsides of flexible work, the more heavily it factors into the equation. For Gen Z and Millennials, there’s no going back. And with other generations not far behind, companies must meet employees where they are.”
How to adjust to the offices of the future?
So far, the big question will be how can companies retain talent? Firstly, embrace the change and these new offices of the future.
And here are some additional ideas:
1. Support flexibility
Keep this in mind, as suggested by an article of Microsoft: “different people have different styles and different needs. The organizations that succeed will find ways to accommodate different work styles as the path to helping everyone do their best work”.
2. Technology as the key
Provide your teams with all sorts of equipment and tools so that they can easily contribute whether working remotely or on-site. Take the most out of collaborative tools, such as Slack, Microsoft Teams or Google Docs.
3. Think fondly of hybrid or remote work
Yes, it’s time to rethink the employee experience. And this is, in fact, a way to keep and/or attract the most diverse professionals with the higher talent. Remember this: the work environment has changed and so has the employee expectations and needs. To be able to get the best, companies need to keep up with this new scenario. If your company doesn’t allow hybrid or remote work, some others will.
Are the offices of the future hybrid?
Hybrid models seem to be what companies are looking at right now.
Working partially from home and partially in the office seems to bring a good balance into what seems to be a never-ending situation and a balance between workers and companies (thinking far beyond the pandemic).
While opinions may vary, one need to keep in mind that these are, currently, still troubling times – and that means to care.
It’s difficult to predict what the future holds, and it’s even tougher to think about what comes into play when we want safety to work among our peers in an office space, but we also want to keep the perks of working from home.
With the increase of vaccination in the world and as people are more in tune with what a Covid-19 routine is, we can optimistically say that things are getting on the right track.
However, we need to take into account that we’re still dealing with it, and we don’t have the true knowledge of what life in the office will be like without restrictions. Plus, there’s the fact that most people figured out that they actually prefer to work from home.
So, what to expect for and with the offices of the future?! Collaboration and flexibility, we must say.
Going back to the Adecco Group article, the research they conducted shows that “previously people spent 70% of their working hours carrying out work processes, and 30% of their time collaborating with colleagues,” quoting The Adecco Group CEO Alain Dehaze.
Dehaze also says that “now this will be reversed, with people coming into the office to collaborate, work on projects, creativity, etc, with work processes done in a remote way, eliminating travel time, boosting productivity and enhancing the quality of life”.
In the end, the future is yet to become the present, and no crystal ball will tell us exactly what will happen.
Spending all day at home in an office might be the last thing on professionals’ minds right now, and it’s a fad of the past for most of us.
Total remote work might not be the greatest solution so, yes, we can say that hybrid mode is on, and will still be the future.
For most companies, this is already happening and we’ll keep an eye on what’s yet to come and how can we make the most out of it while keeping the main motto on: people first!