The future of the office and work
Covid-19 has brought the role of the office into sharp focus. After months of lockdown-induced working from home, businesses have begun to reconsider their relationships with their second-largest operating costs and re-assess their real estate strategies.
The ‘death of the office’ debate
In the spring of 2020, after a few months of novel productivity, tech giants such as Twitter, Facebook and Shopify announced they would allow a portion of their staff to work from home even after the pandemic subsides.
These moves ignited a debate around the ‘death of the office’, with many companies questioning whether they could save money by allowing employees to work from home permanently. However, as months rolled on, the downsides to working from home for five days a week started to emerge.
While they certainly have their advantage, remote environments fail to replicate the value of office space – such as maintaining company culture, encouraging employee development, facilitating collaboration, and inspiring creativity and innovation – all of which are essential to businesses.
The office as a choice and the rise of flexible working
Now, it seems that businesses have begun to embrace a more flexible working model, which embraces both working from home and the office. On top of this, some businesses are even looking at ways in which businesses can work closer to home so that commuting times can be lessened, and work-life balances can be maintained.
However, now that the office is becoming more of a choice, there is a recognition that businesses will have to invest in the ‘office experience’ to entice employees to invest in the commute – both financially and emotionally.
The office of the future will be a base to collaborate in, socialise and celebrate the human elements of business, with ergonomic furniture, biophilic design and on-site cafes to boost employee health and wellbeing – which the corporate world will have a much greater focus on in light of the pandemic.
Likewise, a large part of this future office experience will be pinned to sustainability and ESG initiatives, which will help to win the war on talent, too, as younger generations of the workforce will be looking for companies (and headquarters) that align with their values.
The rise of agile working in future offices
While flexible working very much focuses on the location of work (i.e. the office, the home, a café), agile working actually focuses on what the workplace can offer. In its optimal form, it includes a range of working environments beyond basic desk space, such as space for stand up meetings, breakout areas and silent working pods or private phone booths. It allows employees to choose the right environment for the task at hand.
In light of our newfound focus on wellbeing and the office experience, agile working will play an important role in the office of the future – especially as it allows businesses to be flexible with the amount of office space they sign up for, whilst mitigating the risks of a 9-5 sedentary lifestyle by encouraging mobility.
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