In a post-COVID world, The Great Resignation and the resulting new hybrid working model has permanently impacted how the office of the future will look, feel and function. With today’s ongoing talent shortage, there is an urgent need for employers and decision-makers to create spaces that are flexible, employee-centric and designed for a new world of work in order to attract and keep talent.
Putting Employees First
The workplace is where employees spend a third of their lives, so getting this space right—comfortable, inviting, and conducive to work—is critically important. Offering a better working environment that offers greater features and amenities than the average home office is the first step toward attracting and keeping talent. Many people don’t work at home well, especially with kids and families; make the office someplace where they have everything they need and can actually get work done.
An effective office environment is a mix between using real estate efficiently and understanding the business needs of the company in order to accommodate employees’ workflows. Identifying objectives of the employees, and the company’s mission and offerings, is a critical part of creating an effective office environment and enabling the company to increase productivity—and profitability.
The New Hybrid Office
Office designs a decade ago or more followed a “pack ‘em in” attitude, with cramped cubicles and employees struggling to book the only conference room in the office. While not all employees are at the office at a given time today, making for a healthier density, there is still a need to provide more customized spaces beyond a table and chairs.
The office of the future will reflect these changing meeting types, which might include a series of private meeting rooms of various sizes and designs. One room might have a traditional conference table and large screen capability, whereas others might have couches and comfy chairs and look more like a living room. Whether the employee needs quiet time on their laptop, a small group collaboration, a large group meeting or even a place to spread papers and do drawing or sketching or other creative activities, the spaces will accommodate these needs.
Integrating Technology for Greater Health and Wellness
Committing to a health and wellness approach for a workplace goes beyond having social gatherings and kombucha on tap. Simple amenities such as sit-stand desks offer employees the opportunity to reduce their sitting for long hours, and treadmill desks can work well for employees who want to stay active. Getting creative about what employees want, as well as what they need, can mean the difference between an acceptable office versus one that they truly look forward to coming to.
Offices now utilize technology to maximize efficiency and reduce costs as well, one example being from simply installing sensors. Sensors in the ceiling can determine how often a space is used, and how; they can control lights, heating and cooling, and the space responds to whomever is in it. This data is processed through a centralized hub, where decisionmakers can figure out how often and how well the space is used.
A recent Pew Research study shows that workers who are choosing to go into work say preference and productivity are the major reasons why they rarely or never work from home; and that six in 10 of these workers prefer to work at their workplace. There is no perfect way to determine productivity, but enabling a new office space design with technology that truly enables is a very good start.
The Office of the Future
The workplace of the future will utilize biophilic design: elements of nature and natural materials, such as natural light, plants and outdoor spaces. As humans, we gravitate towards this aesthetic and it feels safe and comfortable, unlike the sterile offices of the past.
The office of the future will feature elements from the world of hospitality: it might even look like an elegant hotel lobby, with a welcoming, modern design; natural lighting that isn’t too bright or fluorescent; plenty of seating and places to get comfortable; and of course, a good coffee bar and snacks.
As companies face one of the biggest talent shortages in decades, one immediate solution is to make their office a top priority. By giving employees a place they want to go every day, creating an environment that helps them succeed, and building a strong brand and presence through the physical workspace, companies can create a very real competitive advantage.
About the Author:
Kelly Collini is a principal with Colberg Architecture.