The traditional, pre-pandemic office was the default workplace employees commuted to five days per week, sitting at designated desks and cubicles. Today, hybrid work is simply how work happens. But while people appreciate the flexibility and choice that hybrid work enables, the fluid, uncertain schedules of hybrid work have created new challenges – and opportunities – for the office.
The physical workplaces remain an essential hub for collaboration, socialization, and organizational culture-building. Our traditional concept of the office is now being transformed by organizations taking the best attributes of hybrid work (flexibility and choice) and blending them with the best qualities of the office as a place of human connection.
People enjoy the office, but they hate commuting. As such, the office needs to “earn” its occupancy by offering benefits people can’t access at home. That means organizations need to build spaces people deem worthy of commuting into, spaces offering a high “return-on-commute.”
Office Transformation in 6 Steps
While the traditional office is gone, people still want and need the office. That leaves an essential question. How do we transform the office so it accommodates the needs of people in a world of hybrid work?
Here are 6 steps to a transformed office:
1. Rebrand Your Office to Reflect Its Purpose.
Many organizations have stopped referring to their commercial real estate as “the office,” and are instead using new terminology that better reflects the transformation of their workplaces as a vehicle for value creation. Technology giant Cisco, for example, refers to its new Atlanta office as a “Collaboration Center.” Okta, an identity management firm, refers to its New York office as an “Experience Center.”
Cisco’s Hybrid Work Leader Bob Cicero (whose job title is another reflection of Cisco’s office rebranding), says “we think about [our rebranded Atlanta office] as a talent collaboration center. You're not going back to the traditional office.” So why not give your office a new name?
2. Consider "Return on Commute” (RoC)
In a world of hybrid work, the office must earn its visits by being an attractive destination for in-person collaboration, social connection, and culture-building. Again, people enjoy coming into the office because they want to interact with colleagues.
Today’s office must be a “pull,” not a “push." Your people want to know why they should commute in on any particular day. For some people, their home is now the default workplace. To offer people more “return on commute,” Cisco has created a series of social and entertainment events in its Atlanta offices, as well as in-office learning/networking opportunities such as leadership conferences.
What’s the all-time top “pull” of the office, making those tough commutes worth the frustration? It’s human connection, which organizations should be facilitating. In fact, 64% of people responding to Robin’s Employee Motivators survey were more likely to come into the office if they knew other team members would also be there.
3. Create Flexible, Modular Office Layouts
Work is more flexible today than ever, so office furniture and equipment needs to be moveable and customizable in order to address people’s needs for comfort, collaboration, digital connection, and more. Organizations are re-imagining their old floor plans and eliminating designated desks and designated team clusters.
A transformed workplace might have hot desking and hoteling, supported by desk and meeting room booking software, and/or dedicated neighborhoods that support specific ways of working, such as collaboration, brainstorming, quiet immersion, relaxation/socializing, and more.
For example, furniture retailer COR adopted hybrid work and moved into a smaller corporate workspace. Rolling out a “hot desking” approach, with the help of Robin, COR was able to accommodate 60% more employees in an office that was 32% smaller, leading to more collaboration and significant CRE cost savings.
4. Invest in Enabling Workplace Technology
Transforming the office is a process of blending: 1) the physical space, (2) the requirements of your people, (3) your business practices and processes and (4) your technology tools enabling transformation.
You can’t implement hot desking, for example, unless you support the practice with an effective desk booking system. Otherwise, you’ll have people showing up and fighting over desks or having to return home because all the “hot desks” are taken by 8:45 am. That’s chaos.
You’d also need a meeting room booking system so people know which meeting spaces are available and when, instead of having teams roaming around the hallways looking for available meeting space.
Having the right technology to support your people is an office non-negotiable. Make sure you have the solutions in place that teams need to get their best work done.
5. Leverage Workplace Analytics to Iterate on Your Workplace Strategy
Workplace technology (such as desk and meeting room booking software) and workplace experience platforms should provide real-time data on space utilization that workplace leaders can use to inform exactly how they transform the office.
The incoming data serves as a navigation system telling organizations how they’re doing with their workspace and what adjustments should be made to accommodate people’s evolving needs. Better space management leads to more effective use of your space.
For example, you can analyze your data to pinpoint which areas of your office are used most and which are underutilized. From there, you can readjust your layout to transform low-traffic areas into spaces that are currently in high-demand. This ensures you are using your entire office as effectively as possible.
6. Find a Trusted Transformation Partner
In the end, following the steps above will help you transform your office into a locus of employee experience and human connection. But there are times when you’ll need help with your transformation efforts, whether with technology or with policies/processes.
That’s where we come in. Robin helps organizations like yours effectively transform the office with our leading workplace experience platform. We’re here to help you - learn more.