The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the role of the office, with many employees switching to home working and adapting well to the remote environment. Overall, this change has been positive with 47% of UK businesses in our recent Future of Work survey naming flexible and remote working as their top positive change and 75% of employees in the Adecco Group’s global survey wanting a mix of office-based and remote working.
Despite this, 28% of businesses in our survey said their teams would be permanently office based while 50% said they wouldn’t hire permanent remote workers. This shows that businesses still see a huge value in people being together, particularly for team morale, so the physical office space is still arguably just as important for building collaboration and maintaining a positive workplace culture.
So, what benefits do offices provide to businesses and employees, and why is returning to the office to work, even for part of the time, advantageous for both?
As offices start to reopen, companies need to consider the wellbeing of their workforce. 41% of employees have felt more anxious and isolated than ever due to lockdown, while 42% admitted they had struggled with their mental health more than usual in recent months (Vision Direct). Whereas a return to the daily office commute lacks appeal to those who have enjoyed the flexibility of home working, a balance between the two is the logical solution, with a mix of office and home working favoured by the vast majority of employees.
Communities have been massively affected by the drop in footfall of office workers’ spending. Meanwhile, people don’t want to return to their traditional commutes, with 85% wanting to work more locally in the future ( TownSq). According to a report by Centre for Cities, placing office spaces on local high streets where people are living as well as working helps to revitalise regions, as this places office workers amongst other businesses that rely on their trade.
Offices play a vital role in collaboration, creating an environment for collective innovation, productivity and wellbeing, as well as spaces where employees can work and relax. Ideas can be shared and developed more easily as a team. It’s also easier for colleagues to communicate with each other, read moods and emotions, and bounce ideas off one another in a shared space. This creates an energy and a positive working atmosphere which can’t be replicated remotely or through video calls, and is essential for the success of any team.
While balancing home and work life can keep us on our toes at the best of times, the office provides a clear place of work, which employees can physically leave at the end of each day. Being able to mentally switch off from work helps to reduces stress.
Culture impacts a person’s wellbeing at work, and ensures they are more engaged and passionate about their role. What employees experience day to day in the office has a huge influence on a company’s reputation, and how it attracts and retains talent. Without a physical space, it’s harder to implement activities and practices that create a strong company culture.
The value of ‘water cooler’ conversations in offices is well documented, as these in-between spaces provide locations for colleagues to exchange stories and talk about their experiences face to face. Whether it’s a work-related topic or a personal problem shared, this builds social cohesion, important connections between colleagues and helps to create a stronger company culture.
Office activities such as team building events, where people see each other in person and interact as a group, boost team spirit, create a social buzz and help turn professional relationships into personal ones.
Workplaces need to maintain certain standards by law – from equipment and desk furniture to office temperature. Another benefit of having a physical office, which ties into company culture, is that it ensures everyone has equal working conditions. When people are working from home this is not always the case and you are generally expected to manage this yourself.
Businesses can communicate their brand identity, values and ethics through an office space as employees, clients and visitors are able to physically experience their brand. This can also help in winning business and attracting talent as what people feel when they walk into an office influences how an organisation is perceived, which in turn impacts its success.
In an office environment, employees experience a range of situations which is a vital part of their development. Having managers present in the room who they can go to for advice and ideas, or seek support from if they are experiencing any issues, speeds up their professional development, resolves problems more quickly and ultimately benefits the business.
So how can you adapt your office to the new era? What changes will you make when offices reopen again? How can businesses innovate and create the workplaces of the future? Here are five inspirational ideas:
The traditional desk is out, and new ways of working mean a desk is now a more dynamic space. Hot desks will be the norm to make offices a more flexible space for people to drop by as needed.
A functional workspace, but with less of a footprint - is in. Strategically place bar tables and stools with their own monitors and docking stations, or tall-backed privacy couches with retractable power cables from the ceiling for power, to create working hubs alongside traditional desks.
Employee needs have changed during the pandemic, and companies need to consider the physical and mental health of their employees. Create a multiple purpose room which can be used for presentations as well as exercise or dance classes.
As countries are starting to fold green issues into their COVID-19 recovery strategies, so companies are too - could you go zero waste or carbon neutral? Get everyone excited and involved!
If you’re remodelling your workspaces, also future-proof your premises with innovative tech such as non-evasive heat-detection cameras that can check the temperatures of 100 people per minute.
For support and guidance on returning to the workplace, talk to us today.