Workplace experience extends beyond physical locations

Brendan O'Neil
Brendan O'Neil

If I knew you were a size 8 shoe, I wouldn’t buy you a size 6 and expect you to fit into it. 

The same logic applies to office spaces. 

Most offices were designed for a 2019 style of work but as we dive into the second half of 2021, things just aren’t matching up. 

Businesses of all sizes are at a turning point. Some will go all-in on more dynamic, hybrid-friendly workplaces.

Others will hold onto old office models until they have no other choice. 

The bottom line? Work has changed and workplaces will need to change with it. 

A new workplace experience for modern workers

Workplace experience is one of the biggest challenges organizations face as people trickle back into the office. When the design of a space is stuck in 2019, employees' needs aren’t met. 

It’s not that people in 2019 were horrible interior designers, rather that the majority of these spaces were designed for a pre-pandemic world, where in-person was the default rather than hybrid work. Think: open floor plans, limited conference rooms, shared tables and lots of noise. 

While these offices are equipped to address health and safety concerns like distancing some desks and installing better HVAC systems, they don’t function as a resource for fully collaborative work. 

For leaders, this is another pain point entirely; increases in headcount usually mean more desks and big investments in bigger offices. In a world that is moving quickly towards a more flexible working environment, these costs can likely be avoided with better space utilization.

And it’s not only about the office space, employees now know what can be gained from eliminating commutes in and out of the office. Leaders must address pain points around travel, childcare and flexible work schedules in order to build a holistic, employee-centric workplace experience. 

What does global office data tell us?

It’s still early, but we've seen an acceleration in the return-to-office (RTO). This is regionally based, and a lot of the momentum we're seeing is in North America. The data from our monthly Return-to-Office (RTO) tracker shows that people are coming into the office between one and two-and-a-half times per week. 

This should continue to trend upward across the US. According to a recent survey of business leaders by staffing firm LaSalle Network, 70% of businesses plan to have their employees back in the office in some capacity by Fall of this year. 

As part of our data round-up, we're also following the employee bounce rate.

Bounce rate is a term that's used in marketing when someone comes to a website and immediately leaves. We're doing that for offices. So, we can tell if employees are coming in once and then saying, “This isn’t for me.” 

There was an uptick in bounce rate for June and it will be interesting to see if people are building the habitual motion of coming back to the office, or if they're coming back and realizing that they prefer to work at home. 

If you have a high bounce rate, that might be a symptom of having a 2019-style office that hasn’t become the destination your team requires. When your space really does fit the needs of your team, the office will become a more helpful and regular tool.

Building the ideal hybrid workplace

Did you know that 68% of workers say a hybrid workplace is their preferred option? 

In fact, 87% of American workers who have been working remotely during the pandemic would prefer to continue working remotely at least one day a week.

Before the pandemic, the workplace began and ended at the office door. Today, the workplace is everywhere — in your apartment, at the office, anywhere work happens. 

Leaders that want to fully embrace the new normal should consider how to make the office more effective for employees. From implementing desk-booking options to building out more collaborative spaces, the office should be a resource for your teams. 

For example, over the last year, organizations have been upgrading things like meeting rooms and video conference software to accommodate people working virtually. That means upgrading cameras, microphones and digital whiteboards. 

The challenge today is accommodating distributed meetings, where some people call in, and others attend in person. Even if some people attend in-person, it should still feel very accessible for someone calling in to see a whiteboard or hear the conversation. 

Now that the office is no longer a default, more people are planning their trips back to the office on a weekly basis. Some employees only want to go in on certain days, or when their teammates are in the office. It’s become a coordination challenge. 

A lot of that comes down to the social element, but it also shows that you need to empower your people to feel comfortable coming in so they know they'll get the most from their time in the office. 

By making changes physically, digitally, and across how people work, you can alleviate some of the concerns about coming back. 

Breaking away from the office-first environment

A big workplace shift is here. Companies feel it. Employees are demanding it. Offices are adapting. 

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, it’s important for leaders to consider where they fit on the flexible work spectrum. This should start and end with your employees. 

Initiate conversations around what teams want, consider all the angles and take regular pulse checks about any changes you make. 

The future of work isn’t office-first, it’s employee-first.

Empower your teams to do their best work and the rest will fall into place.


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