By Kristin Christensen
As companies continue to navigate the work environment policy in a post-pandemic world, approaching office space with their teams as a top consideration is vital to businesses staying competitive. With attraction and retention of employees at the forefront, companies want their teams to enjoy their workspace and office environment, while also considering their emotional and physical well-being, and adapting to optimize their workflow and productivity, regardless of where the work is taking place. As companies implement policies in this new work environment, most are mandating some sort of a return to office, ranging from a few days a month, to a weekly hybrid model. While these policies can sometimes be met with hesitancy, there are luckily many strategies businesses can consider to help make the adjustment easier, and even enjoyable for their teams.
Pre-pandemic remote work was actively promoted only by a handful of companies, and was seen more commonly in higher leadership roles as a benefit of service and loyalty to the company, while others utilizing remote work would have been flat-out frowned upon. Now, in today’s world as we continue to navigate the waves of the pandemic, a fluctuating economy, lifestyle changes, growing families and an overall preference of a hybrid and flexible work model, this has certainly become a necessity for companies to consider across all industries and roles.
When evaluating a return-to-work policy, it’s important that business leaders consider these insights:
1. Cultivate an environment that encourages meaningful collaboration.
Over the past six months, we’ve noticed employee’s preference to be in the office occasionally is on the rise. Regardless of industry, location or generation, the number one reason employees like being in the office is to collaborate and celebrate with their team and colleagues. Companies that understand this are implementing more areas for brainstorming and innovation zones, as well as providing fun opportunities to connect within the workplace, with team lunches or meetings to break up the day. That way, they can take what they’ve developed with their teams in the office and focus on heads-down work at home in a quieter, more focused environment.
2. Design a workspace that makes team members feel at home.
Along with office design, interior designers have also had to rethink the work experience, and design with more emphasis on how people will use the space, especially for the work activities people can’t do remotely, like collaboration, deeper in-person connection, coaching and mentoring. A top priority is to make the office a place where people want to be. A boring and outdated office space will no longer suffice in this modern age, and will most assuredly affect overall employee retention, morale, engagement, and ultimately the culture. The goal is to now create the kind of space where employees want to be (that they can’t get at home) that has a culture that supports flexibility. By providing different areas in the office that are conducive to various modes of work, companies can allow their teams to freely move about and work where they please. This gives them a similar experience to the mobility they find working from home, with the amenities and collaborative face-to-face interactions as a bonus to being in the office.
As the office has become more appreciated for its event and brainstorming space, something people missed when working from home, it’s vital for it to be a comfortable workspace that feels welcoming and serves as a reenergizing extension of home. By including modern furnishings, high-quality coffee and refreshments, snack selections, modern kitchen appliances, ample windows allowing for natural light and views, accessibility to outdoor relaxation and activity spaces, and local dining options, the office can feel like a nice escape from the everyday home office and its limitations.
3. Incorporate work and play in the same space.
The office needs to be a place that offers functional space that far exceeds one’s home furnishings and continues to be a place where a company’s mission, culture and collaborative force can instill a sense of teamwork and promote innovation.
There are plenty of residential amenities and features that enhance a space for team members and bring a bit of fun and play to the environment. Companies can consider enhancements such as family photo gallery walls, colorful and inspiring artwork, game tables, soft lighting, upgraded restrooms and amenities, and a variety of music and ambient noise. We also encourage placing importance on team well-being with added amenities such as full-gyms and outdoor relaxation, as well as areas to socialize.
4. A space with tech to connect.
The office environment is more than just walls and workspaces, but also a hub of easily-accessible technology to support the team. With hybrid work becoming the ‘norm,’ office spaces must have the tech capabilities to support collaboration, education and socializing. Technology is aiding and reshaping how we all work, and the way we work all together, both in office or at home. There are a number of strategies that can be deployed to optimize usage of spaces from high-speed internet and connectivity for those collaborating across different office locations and time zones, dedicated video conferencing rooms and capabilities that take into consideration where they will occur and how often, and designate rooms specifically for that purpose, such as the popular trend of “Zoom Rooms”—technology-enabled spaces designed to make all team members (or clients) feel included, no matter where they are working.
Another trend we are seeing with a lot of companies is an open floorplan, with all-hands collaborative spaces for team members who are required to be in every day, as well as space to accommodate those who come in less frequently. Some companies may consider replacing assigned workspaces with a hoteling system, which could lead to a more effective use of space and a less formal environment. Alternately, some companies will assign everyone a dedicated workspace, no matter how many days they are in the office, which allows them the opportunity to express their identity and personality at their work desk. The entire open office layout concept is changing, switching to feature private offices that are unassigned and allocated on an as-needed basis for meetings or focused work.
As companies focus on creating warm and welcoming spaces where their team members can come together to collaborate, mentor, coach and thrive, they will be the most successful in receiving a positive response when returning to the office. At Hughes Marino, we believe office design and company culture truly work hand-in-hand to inspire teams and have the ability to positively impact businesses in many ways. Our Planning + Design team is proud to help our clients shape the perfect functioning workspace for their teams in order to enhance space and productivity, and we hope to help play a small part in assisting companies adapt to the ever-changing world we are living in.
Kristin Christensen is interior design director at Hughes Marino, a global corporate real estate advisory firm that exclusively represents tenants and buyers. Contact Kristin at 1-844-662-6635 or firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.