Let’s face it, the traditional office as we know it is dead. The 9-to-5 grind, expensive commutes, cubicles, meetings in stuffy conference rooms – they’ve been rendered obsolete by a profound shift towards hybrid and remote work. As Mark Dixon, the CEO of IWG, and I recently discussed in my interview with him, the modern office isn’t defined by four walls, but by flexibility, creativity, and meaningful collaboration. That’s what I tell my clients when I help them transition to a return to office and flexible hybrid work, and my conversation with Dixon illustrates the new reality of the office.
Breaking Free from the Office Anchor
Work has moved. It has migrated from congested city centers to the tranquility of suburbs and rural areas. Think of it as evolution – a species adapting to a more conducive environment, trading skyscrapers for the comforts of home and neighborhood cafes.
But does this mean the office has become an endangered species, headed for extinction? Not at all. As Dixon rightly points out, there is a strong desire among employees to congregate with colleagues. However, they don’t need to do this every day, and certainly not by enduring long, draining commutes.
Imagine, instead, having work meetings like family reunions, held periodically, bursting with energy and ideas, without the humdrum of routine. We’ve observed many companies adopting such models, holding business reviews and brainstorming sessions every fortnight. The result? Higher engagement, better collaboration, and a workforce that looks forward to these “get-togethers”.
The Power of Flexibility
Trying to mandate a return to the office is like pushing a boulder uphill – it’s exhausting, and it may just roll back over you. Evidence suggests that such a forceful approach negatively impacts employee morale and productivity, causing resentment and even ‘quiet quitting.’
Instead, why not roll out the red carpet for your employees? Entice them with incentives, from sponsored lunches to exciting company events. Make coming to the office a treat, not a chore. This approach encourages even those who prefer remote work to visit the office occasionally, fostering a sense of camaraderie and community.
Reimagining Office Spaces
The offices of the past were, let’s be honest, often more about surveillance than collaboration. But the future of office design should focus on productivity and collaboration. This isn’t about cramming as many cubicles as possible into the square footage but rethinking the space with the user experience in mind.
Ever tried to focus while overhearing three video calls in your vicinity? It’s about as easy as reading War and Peace in a disco. Office design should mitigate these issues by creating spaces for different activities – quiet zones for focused work, collaborative areas for group projects, and tech-equipped spaces for seamless video conferencing.
Investing in the Future
By shifting to hybrid work, companies can make substantial savings on office space. But rather than pocketing these savings, companies should reinvest them in training, HR support, event management, and meeting curation.
In this new age, companies need to prioritize employee well-being, with initiatives like offering healthy food options, creating comfortable workspaces, and ensuring efficient use of employees’ time. If we equip our offices with technology that facilitates rather than frustrates, employees will look forward to coming in rather than dreading it.
As Dixon highlights, the old style of office-based working doesn’t just fail to meet our current needs, it’s also downright archaic. In the same way that we wouldn’t use a typewriter to write an email, it’s time to leave outdated workplace models behind. The way we work has evolved, so why shouldn’t our workplaces follow suit? By embracing the new era of hybrid and remote work, organizations can cultivate a work culture that is not just productive and efficient, but also more human-centric, emphasizing well-being and job satisfaction. Hybrid work offers us a golden opportunity, a chance to redefine what work means to us. Instead of mandating that employees clock in and out of a physical office every day, let’s invest in creating workplaces that accommodate their diverse needs. Let’s invest in technology that facilitates seamless collaboration, no matter where employees are located. Let’s reinvent our offices, so they are places where people truly want to be, not places they have to be. In doing so, we can transform our workplaces from mere physical locations into hubs of innovation, creativity, and camaraderie.
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Image credit: Tima Miroshnichenko/Pexels
Originally published in Disaster Avoidance Experts on May 12, 2023