3 major ways the workplace experience is changing in 2021 and beyond

The Covid-19 pandemic brought along unprecedented challenges for companies in every industry. Leaders rose to the occasion to protect the health and safety of their staff, find solutions that would sustain productivity, and ensure their organization’s survival through very uncertain times.

As vaccines roll out all over the world and we begin to see the end of the pandemic in sight, it’s evident that offices won’t go back to the way they were before now that so much time has passed and new working norms have emerged.

Here are 3 of the biggest changes you can expect to see to the office experience in 2021 and beyond:

1. THE ADOPTION OF HYBRID WORKING MODELS

Offering work from home (WFH) arrangements was meant to be a temporary solution for many companies as they practiced social distancing to navigate the pandemic, but then we started to see the benefits. In a remote work report by Zapier, employees reported saving money, working from anywhere, and spending time with family as their top reasons for preferring working remotely. As a result of improved employee happiness and no major impacts on productivity, companies like Twitter and Shopify have announced their permanent shifts to fully remote workforces.

But other studies show that a large proportion of people actually struggle to work from home. A Dropbox study reported that even though two-thirds of employees are focusing just fine at home, a good 30% are not. This is largely due to distractions in the environment or a loss of motivation without being around the buzz of the office. With such a split between those who are happy to work from home and those who can’t wait to be back in the office, offices are not expected to disappear anytime soon.

Instead, organizations are adopting hybrid working models where distributed teams can come into the office when they want and work from home when they want. Employees may choose to do their focus work like creating reports, working with data, or developing project management schedules at home, but then come into the office to collaborate and socialize as needed.

And it’s not only where we work that’s changing, but when we work too. Salesforce has deemed the 9-5 workday dead, offering its staff greater flexibility with their hours than it has before. As we move forward, we can expect to see employers giving much more choice to their staff overall.

 

2. REPURPOSING OFFICE SPACES FOR ACTIVITY BASED WORKING

Moving to remote work means that less square footage is needed per employee and that office spaces are expected to shrink over time.

Now that the office is becoming more of a social destination, it only makes sense that the physical office space also needs to evolve hand in hand to support the change. You can expect to see organizations moving away from the traditional office environment filled with rows of desks and private offices, and instead towards a mix of open spaces.

Some industries like the legal industry and accounting industry might still have a unique need for private offices and cubicles, but many others are already in the process of transforming their offices to include a mix of activity-based spaces that mirror different types of working.

Moving forward, in a typical office, you will start to see more breakout lounges, cafes, larger kitchen spaces, brainstorming rooms, standup meeting spaces, virtual meeting booths, and phone booths. Employees will be able to choose the space that best suits their task, be it checking emails, buckling down in bookable rooms to write, or completing repetitive tasks that can easily be done alongside casual conversation.

 

3. GREATER INVESTMENTS IN TECHNOLOGY AND WFH STIPENDS

Companies around the world made the leap over to using tools like Zoom and Google Meet to practice social distancing while keeping discussions flourishing and projects moving along. If you were already using a tool like Slack, your team may have looked for new ways to get the most out of the tool to keep a sense of your corporate culture alive.

Companies have also been making larger investments in work from home stipends so employees are comfortable working from home, be that purchasing a stand up desk, fast speed internet, or a comfortable office chair.

Independent research by Aura surveying over 200 Vancouver executives found that the speed of development in technology to support remote work and hybrid working models will quintuple.

Fast, reliable, and innovative technology will be more necessary than ever to:

    • Foster meaningful collisions, communication, and collaboration
    • Build and sustain an intentional corporate culture
    • Give employees more flexibility with managing their time in office e.g. through hot-desking apps

WHY WORKPLACE STRATEGY IS ESSENTIAL IN THE RETURN TO WORK PLAN

As organizations prepare for their return to work or rolling out their hybrid models for the very first time, it’s crucial that they think of return as a muscle rather than a one-time plan. A paper published by McKinsey on this concept intends to help organizations understand the steps they need to take for a successful return.

Shifting over to a hybrid model and returning to the office after much time away doesn’t happen overnight. It requires much thought, attention, and planning.  You’ll need to answer questions like:

    • How much office space do you actually need?
    • What are your employees’ working preferences?
    • What types of spaces do you need to support those preferences?
    • How will the decisions you make for your physical office impact your growth, impact on the environment, and sustainability?

Leading companies are going through the process of developing workplace strategies with the guidance of experts to get the answers they need before going in blind. Aside from navigating uncertainty, those who have gone through the process are also reporting:

  1. Significant cost savings
    A workplace strategy can help your company get the most out of its existing space and optimize it in the best way possible. By ensuring that space is well accounted for and that any unneeded space is disregarded or sublet, you can put your focus on growing your business.
  2. Improved productivity
    When you go through the process of understanding the needs and wants of your employees, you can do your best to cater to them. When you align your office space to their specific needs, you’ll begin to meet happier, more productive employees who are doing their best work.
  3. Workplace satisfaction and retention
    When you deliver on your employees’ unique needs, you’re bound to end up with satisfied employees who not only report job satisfaction but who also become advocates for your company and who are there to stay for a long time.

The events of the last year have certainly changed how we work and where we work. As companies prepare to return to work and transition to hybrid working models, there is a huge opportunity for exciting change. Making these transitions doesn’t happen overnight and requires careful planning and consideration. Developing a workplace strategy that assesses employee needs, potential growth, and your organizational impact is absolutely key before moving forward on your next normal.

To schedule a free workplace strategy consultation contact Aura here.