Thinking of the office as nothing more than a building is as outdated as impractical.
The workplace upheaval brought on by the pandemic has forever changed where, when, and perhaps most impactfully, how people work. With 1 in 3 companies offering flexible remote working options to their team, employees are working in novel ways. Yet, despite the proliferation of at-home work that hybrid schedules entail, there have also been drastic effects on how offices function, including giving more employees a voice in what they want in the workplace.
Because people no longer use their workspace as a daily destination, the office has become a place to commune and collaborate, innovate and interact. These new and fluctuating demands in what employees need make shifting schedules, varying workstations, and spontaneity necessary components of an office.
Workplace managers must devise creative solutions and integrations that keep their workplace agile, inviting, and productive. To optimize workplaces, real-time knowledge of how people use your space is essential.
Understanding employees’ needs makes them want to stay
Gartner reports that over half of employees feel that part of their decision to stay with a company is based on their ability to work flexibly.
In many ways, this has positive ramifications. For one, Forbes data shows that a hybrid work model increases productivity. And yet, it also means employee retention will be based on new demands, one of which is the flexibility and functionality of the workplace, as shown in our 2022 Employee Insights on Hybrid Work Report.
Experts predict that we will see a rise in employers catering to what employees need in order to engage their team and attract top performers for future roles. As such, offices, more than ever, need to have the ability to meet the complex needs of a hybrid workforce.
But what does that really mean?
It starts with understanding what teams need. Companies are reconfiguring spaces to meet the needs of their hybrid workforce and focusing on the collaboration that will inspire them to want to come into the office.
And it makes sense — while people can get individual assignments done at home, what they can’t do is get the interactive, participatory experience that being in the office allows.
Subsequently, workplace leaders need to account for the behavioral changes found in the office of 2022. Old designs with individual desks and small conference rooms won’t work the way employees need them.
Seeing what employees need is no longer a matter of just looking around. Flexible work changed people’s relationship with physical space. By using office measurement technologies, workplace leaders can accurately define how needs are being met and use that data to make impactful decisions.
For example, by knowing that specific desk spaces for solitary work are often empty while larger conference rooms are frequently booked, floor plan redesign can be made to accommodate bigger socially distanced groups. Similarly, there may be collaborative spaces that are going unused because there are fewer people in the office, and they might be better redesigned to reflect current needs.
Without clear-cut metrics on how employees operate within the office, significant real estate and floor plan decisions are left to best guesses. Better and more practical spaces can be created when employee behaviors are seen and measured.
Creating a space your team wants to be in
Not only do offices need to be functionally updated, but they also need to give employees a reason to want to come in. Because collaboration is such an important feature of the new office, managers need to consider how to create a space people want to be in. Of course, this is directly linked to ease of use and functionality, but it is also about excitement and company culture.
Amenities that were once known only to top tech companies are now considered the expected norm across the board. While that doesn’t mean building tennis courts or napping pods, it does mean that attracting and keeping talent is still, despite hybrid schedules, based around offices that people want to work from. People need to be in the office to make the most of collaborative potential, so creating quality spaces is actually a part of employee needs.
Ultimately, this comes down to better spaces. The skeletal office is no longer viable in any way. Focus must shift toward employee satisfaction and a culture with flexibility being top of mind. Better spaces means better output, and to do this successfully, robust office data is essential.
If data shows that a workstation with outdated tools is left empty while another is overbooked, a few updates will go a long way. It may seem straightforward, but having data to make these kinds of changes shows a dedication to employee comfort, as it also cultivates creativity, ingenuity, and motivation. Spontaneous innovation occurs when people are brought together with the tools they need, which requires an optimized workplace.
Implementing software to promote a better and safer experience
As offices are reimagined to facilitate the evolving needs of hybrid employees, workplace management solutions still must enforce social distancing, lowered occupancy levels, enhanced cleaning, and staggered schedules to create the safest possible environment.
To do this efficiently and effectively, real-time workplace metrics are needed. Companies can adopt integrated workplace management systems (IWMS) to help create viable schedules that promote social distancing on a software level. Knowing which office neighborhoods team members use allows for planning that supports collaborative interaction while maintaining appropriate occupancy levels. Additionally, conference room and desk booking software can provide the right spaces for the right job while preventing overcrowding.
When the data acquisition works in real-time, daily adjustments can be made to ensure optimal safety regulations. The reality of floor plan designs is that certain areas are likely to experience high usage while others may be underutilized. Understanding which is which can help workplace managers not only create more effective spaces but ones that prevent bottlenecks and avoid overcrowding.
However it is accomplished, measuring how people are using their space is a fundamental tool to ensure a better overall employee experience with an emphasis on making teams feel comfortable in their workplaces.
Measure your future
Managing a workplace has become complicated in entirely new ways. These changes bring about a constant shift in what is necessary for workplace management solutions. While this creates exciting potential, it can also feel challenging to regulate in terms of decision-making and space management.
Offices are chameleons, constantly adapting to changes in their environment. They are fluid and reactive spaces requiring an agile mindset to streamline evolving hybrid work demands. In 2022, workplace management needs to not just accept, but excel in considering how their office is seen, and space utilization is undertaken.