Redefining the Office Space: How Companies Can Reshape for a Modern Workforce

While the office looks a lot different these days (a kitchen table with children or pets vying for attention) it’s still a permanent fixture of how we work. We might not have a crystal ball to see what the future of collaboration will look like, but we do have a wealth of insights from our research partners and industry leaders about the new office environment.

Adapting to the new preferences of the workforce starts with rethinking traditional floor plans and assigned seating. Whether you’re reducing or maintaining your in-office footprint, we are here to help you determine the functional areas that will preserve community and collaboration—the foundation of every successful company culture.

What Employees Want

To help us guide our clients on adapting to the workplace of the future, we enlisted our research partner DORIS to collect data in 5 key areas: collaboration, creativity, innovation, strategy, and productivity. These areas were chosen because they were all intertwined and crucial for an organization’s success. DORIS interviewed participants at all levels of an organization and across all work arrangements to uncover each setup.

Here are some key findings gleaned from the study:

  • Past collaboration was perceived better than its anticipated performance in the future. This belief is influenced by employees anticipating future challenges with diverse workplace models.
  • Innovation is on the rise. This is likely derived from how quickly companies have had to shift their work styles to stay profitable during the pandemic.
  • Respondents cited that strategizing required more effort when working from home. Without impromptu collaboration that comes from the office, such as seeing someone in passing and having a conversation, employees had to be more intentional about when they wanted to collaborate.
  • Workers cited greater individual productivity. However, fewer distractions came at the cost of a lower level of creativity and collaboration, since people had to put in more effort to collaborate.

Based on these results, employers must decide what arrangement maximizes creativity and productivity—and makes the most sense for their business model.

Even if a workplace is going to full re-entry, socially distanced conference rooms, flex floors, and desk dividers are just a few products of this new era of work. Office spaces that integrate better building ventilation, cleaning and touchless technology will also appeal to hybrid and on-site workers alike. Conscientious companies that factor these emerging norms into their re-entry plans can deepen their core culture and employee loyalty rather than lose top talent to an employer with more accommodating work models.

spacious room with blue wall

Designing for Movement

Whether a company is going for a hybrid format or fully back into the office, a key part of the new work environment is non-assigned seating. As evidenced by our research, employees perform best in the environment that’s most conducive to their work style. Thus, in fast-paced environments dependent on collaborative work, people benefit from being able to move fluidly between group and individual environments. This means multi-use spaces, as well as adaptable furniture, create the necessary environment to support the task at hand.

For safety concerns, this practice will likely not be used to its full potential until the pandemic passes, since employers have to account for additional cleanliness practices to accommodate more mobile employees. However, when adopting a remote or hybrid work style becomes a choice rather than a necessity for some workplaces, employees will benefit from the increased creativity that comes with moving around.

People sitting in an open cafe

Less Desk Time, More Face Time

A reduction in surface area, and on-site people (for companies supporting a substantial remote workforce), means making every part of the space intentional. From acoustics to mobile furnishings to sensors, every element needs to focus around enhancing collaboration from in-person interactions or creating the equivalent for remote teams.

A survey from real estate corporation JLL found that 70 percent of respondents consider the office as the best place for team building and connecting with management. This result stands despite an employee preference to work remotely more than one day a week, which was a trend found in another one of the company’s studies.

As a result of these preferences, the new workplace will be maximized for the benefits of in-person interaction. In-person meetings are a cornerstone of professional development, as the mentorship that comes organically from casually talking over lunch hasn’t directly translated to videoconferencing.

Behavioral research from Deloitte supports this stance. The study found that employers are opting for a cross of virtual and in-person training while placing an emphasis on training for office space.

This means trading a surplus of individual cubicles, originally intended for solitary execution, for collaborative spaces designed for uses such as group planning, client meetings, employee onboarding, and training.

This arrangement, while an adjustment, maximizes employee productivity by giving them the freedom to work from home as needed while treating office time, crucial touchpoints with clients and colleagues, purposefully.

The Future of Work

While remote work has encouraged people to bring more of their authentic selves to work, the office is the bedrock of company culture. With increased emphasis on sanitation and safety concerns, the flexible workplace will be a hub to collaborate and socialize. We are here to help you reshape offices for a modern workforce, merging the best of digital and traditional workplace solutions for productive and inspiring spaces.

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