The topic concerning the future of office work has become a crucial subject in recent years. In 2020, the global pandemic forced many offices to close and for their workers to adapt to a new remote working environment. Now that many offices are back up and running, nearly as normal, some businesses have reverted back to their pre-pandemic ways of working. However, some have also embraced the advantages of remote working and have changed the way they now operate. While some companies may not wish to stay completely remote, hybrid office work is something to consider as well.
How many people are open to keeping remote working?
For now, it appears that work will not be the same again after getting used to working remotely. First, the office culture is starting to change. The way companies run their daily jobs is shifting to a more flexible process where employees can work just as well remotely out of the usual office environment. Many employees are preferring working at home where they do not have to do long commutes or get up too early to head to the office.
While some offices have either completely kept to one side of the fence, either back in the office full-time or switched completely to remote work, hybrid working is also an option. Statistics from earlier this year show that, after government restrictions were lifted, more than 8 in 10 workers said that they planned to do hybrid office work after working from home during the pandemic. In May 2022, 24% of workers were hybrid working in the UK.
The ease of virtual communication
When offices shut their doors, companies had to come up with ways for employees to communicate with each other effectively. While some may have thought that virtual working would take much away from in-person communications, many companies instead embraced the ease, flexibility, and advantages of it which continues to this day.
Although it may have been a learning curve for some, companies started to embrace digital transformation more. Over the pandemic, and since, the demand for online communication platforms such as video conferencing and instant messaging has increased significantly. Slack and Microsoft Teams are just two team communication apps that are perfect for team chat across businesses to ensure that workplace communication continues in a seamless way.
How hybrid office working affects office space
However, there may be some businesses who will still need offices as virtual communication may not always be the best form of communication in every situation. For example, employees may need to conduct interviews, hold board meetings, or speak to HR, which all may be better done in person rather than virtually. Hybrid office working can allow for tasks like this to take place whilst also offering the flexibility and other advantages of remote working at the same time.
The shift in remote working is forcing many business owners to improve office environments and redesign their offices to accommodate hybrid workers. Companies and small businesses now need to rethink the size of their offices, their office layouts, and their facilities, to cater for their changing workforce. Many businesses may even consider downsizing, especially if their workforce is only in the office part-time each week.
New priorities for post-pandemic office use
According to Gensler, key trends which are expected to drive new post-pandemic workplaces include: mobility, choice, privacy, unassigned seating, and health and wellbeing. They highlight that although these needs were driven by the pandemic, most of these issues were already raised pre-pandemic.
While open office environments have led to shared workspaces and unassigned seating in some companies, many employees still want better space allocation. Open office layouts may help improve performance and experience but noise and lack of privacy can be detrimental to work productivity as employees struggle to focus.
Now that social distancing is a thing of the past for many offices, companies are now able to open up space for breakout rooms and meeting rooms for both employee privacy and client meetings. This is a great opportunity for companies to rethink their meeting room layouts to ensure that they are the ideal private space for aiding discussions, conducting interviews, and hosting business meetings.
While many employees may be happy working from home, maintaining an office space can still be useful for those who prefer not to work at home. Employees may prefer to go to the office where it’s now quieter with people working from home and where they can get some work done away from a busy household. Right now, even though the future of office spaces looks to be more remote than not, it’s also important to recognise that not every employee or business wants to work from home. Some work tasks may not be possible to conduct at home. Therefore, where possible, adopting a hybrid office working plan can help companies adapt their business and provide the flexibility which many employees desire.