What Role Will the Office Play in 2023?

Sabrina Dorronsoro
Sabrina Dorronsoro
Published on 
12.7.2022

future of the office, workplace experience

The tides are shifting in the world of work. After three years of considerable change, companies seem to be gearing up for another shift. According to Forrester's latest report, 40% of hybrid-working companies will try to undo their anywhere-work policies, telling employees to come into the office more frequently. 

What’s more? The analyst firm predicts that the new year will result in more employee-employer confrontations, particularly for companies that don’t work with their teams to shape hybrid work policies. 

The bottom line? The office will play a bigger role in company plans than it did in 2022 and employee input into these plans could be the difference between a smooth transition and a rocky return. 

Big Tech Companies Look to Rebalance the Role of the Office

Big companies like Salesforce and Snap have recently announced that they are stepping back their work-from-anywhere policies in favor of making the office a space for collaboration and culture again. 

In late November, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel announced that employees would be expected to be in the office 80% of the time, starting in February. That equates to four or more days per week in the office for full-time employees. The reason behind the shift? Slowed revenue growth and a shift in focus toward collective success over individual convenience. 

Not long after, Salesforce CEO, Marc Benioff announced members of sales teams that live near offices would need to be in office three days a week from Tuesday to Thursday. Interestingly, the mandate was not blanketed across departments. Benioff attributes this to some roles, which he refers to as “factory jobs” needing the in-person presence more than others. 

“I do think that we're going to have a rebalancing,” explains Benioff. “Whether they are doing maybe very core work or even new folks who don't have maybe the tribal knowledge yet or need the mentorship or folks coming in from college who benefit from being in the office. But we're never going back to how it was. We all know that."

This won’t be the end of such announcements as leaders across industries battle slowing revenues and an impending global recession. After nearly three years of the remote-first narrative, how should workplaces consider their stance on in-office attendance?

To Mandate or Not to Mandate: That is the Question

When it comes to mandates, ultimately, every organization knows what's best for them. Companies choosing to make these declarations likely have good reason for it, whether that be declining sales or decreased productivity. 

Mandates or not, all employees want clarity on what is expected of them. McKinsey found that employees feeling anxious about work due to a lack of organizational communication are three time as likely to burnout. Consider reframing the conversation around in-office expectations, when we talk about policies and guidelines for in-office work over directives and mandates, the conversation shifts from a set of demands to a list of best practices. This gives employees the information they need to match expectations without conjuring the negative reactions to mandates and directives. Consider:

  • Using softer language and adding context behind the decision 
  • Painting a better picture of why the office is important
  • Adding more substance to the conversation
  • Drilling down into why in-person connection matters

The trend towards more in-office time will continue: 52% of leaders want an in-office workweek of four to five days to strengthen connectivity and collaboration, according to McKinsey. So get ready to have this conversation and start thinking about office motivators now.

4 Tools for Building Better Workplace Experiences 

Forrester predicts that 50% of companies will battle their employees over rigid attendance policies in 2023 and suffer a loss of productivity due to labor unrest. Don’t be a part of that percentage. Be proactive in shaping workplaces worth the commute, spaces that serve your unique culture and inspire community.

Here’s where to start. 

1. Talk to Your People 

If you want to know what it will take to get employees back in office, start by asking them. Companies need to create workplaces that reflect what their people need. Consider what mechanisms you have for workplace feedback. Are you regularly asking teams what they expect out of your office space? If not, it’s time to start.

People power workplace communities. If you’re ready to listen, the roadmap to a more vibrant office can come straight from your team’s lips.

2. Centralize Your Coordination 

You need the right technology to support your plans. You could have the most engaging ideas in the world but without the tools to coordinate and connect your strategy will likely fall flat. 

Find ways to better communicate office activities, make sure teams have access to office rosters and ensure you have the resources to support your employees when they are in-office. McKinsey found that the most productive hybrid companies are intentionally supporting connection throughout their workplace - from brainstorming to meetups to opportunities for mentorship. 

3. Be Willing to Iterate 

The best companies are willing to recognize what’s working and make changes accordingly. Workplaces will have to get comfortable with change. In fact, according to McKinsey, companies with the highest levels of productivity are the ones that continuously iterate on their hybrid work plans as things change. 

In the same way employees need to be flexible, employers need to be flexible with their plans. Having the right workplace analytics can be a huge help here, enabling workplace teams to rollout, test and measure the effectiveness of their plans. 

4. Consider Your Incentives 

The office resuming a role in an average work-week will be harder for some than others. Child-care, accessibility, commutes: all of these factors will differ on a person-by-person basis. 

This is where leadership needs to double down on how they support their people. Incentives should reflect the reality of your workforce. How are you supporting parents in your workplace? How can you make commutes more manageable for out-of-towners? What steps are you taking to accommodate disabilities in your physical spaces? Finding the right incentives to remove barriers to coming into office can make all the difference.

The Office Isn’t Dead, it Just Needs a Rebrand

There’s value in flexibility and there’s value in coming to the office. Workplaces must continue to offer flexibility while also prioritizing the importance of bringing people back together. 

Communicate the value of in-person connections and start reshaping the narrative around office spaces. It’s not about arbitrarily getting people into seats, it’s about cultivating a community of people, united under a similar purpose.

The right workplace technology can be the difference between empty offices and lively spaces. Both leaders and their teams need the right tools to better interact with the office and each other. Consider this: 

  • Over 70% of workplace teams that have a workplace experience platform report feeling confident in executing their hybrid work strategy. 
  • When using Robin, employees are 2.5x more likely to come into the office. 
  • Team members are 30% more likely to come into the office after viewing an announcement about in-office activities or events.

Ready to learn how Robin can help you balance flexibility and in-person connections? Get started for free