In 2020, COVID-19 meant that more office workers than ever before began working from home on a full-time basis. For the majority, this transition was a smooth one and many businesses were left questioning the future of the office. However, a new report from peer mentoring organisation, Vistage, concludes that the office is far from dead. Here, we look at the key findings from the ‘Do you still need an office?’ report.
The office is alive and kicking
If you’d have asked many businesses two years ago if they could foresee the majority of their workforce working from home on a full-time basis, we’re confident the majority would have said no. While many companies were already starting to make the move towards more flexible working practices, COVID-19 catapulted us forward on this journey. But somehow, against the odds, we made it work! Understandably, this prompted a big question. If our workforce can operate from home so seamlessly, do we really need an office after all?
At first, the future of the office looked dubious. But as lockdowns were extended and the reality of homeworking (you’re on mute!) became more apparent, we started to remember what we loved about the office in the first place. The ‘Do you still need an office?’ report shows that many companies have now gone full circle and a whopping 74% of businesses are planning to return to the office. The vast majority of these are expecting to adopt a hybrid working approach, with workers splitting their time between home and the office building. Reassuringly for many, the report states unequivocally that offices are here to stay. But there are some considerations that businesses will have to think through in the months ahead…
If all employees won’t be working from the office at the same time, many companies will be seriously considering the space they need. According to the report, around 50% of businesses surveyed are considering downsizing their office space in the near future. Businesses will need to consider their headcount, working patterns and the types of areas they need to determine if this is the right decision for them. Instead of downsizing, this could be an opportunity to consider using the space differently. With many businesses looking to support interaction and collaboration (particularly for those who might have missed the face-to-face contact you get in an office setting), a redesigned office space may be preferable to a smaller space.
If you’re looking for inspiration, take a look at this video to see how we helped Ascentis to design and fit out their office to support hybrid working and increase collaboration across the business.
A strong office culture is always important, but never more so than when employees are working flexibly. Many businesses may find that their culture has been diluted with team members not spending physical time together. Now is the perfect time to reaffirm what it is your business stands for and the role your employees play in this. Communication is key in building a positive working culture. Create as many opportunities as possible for your team members to get together, both in person (if you can) and online. And, it sounds simple, but don’t forget to ask questions and listen to what your team is telling you. This is particularly key if you feel your company culture has ‘drifted’ over the last 18 months. Genuine interaction will really help to rebuild those bonds.
Flexible working patterns
A significant consideration for businesses returning to the office is how flexible they want – or are willing – to be. If a member of staff doesn’t want to return to the office at all, is this acceptable? What if you’d like all your team to work from home one day a week, but somebody wants to come in five days a week? What works for some, might not work for others so businesses will need to carefully consider their position when it comes to dealing with different working pattern requests from their staff members. Legally, there are some things that you’ll need to consider so you may also wish to seek help from a legal professional to make sure you’re fulfilling your obligations as an employer.
In mid-July 2020, a survey by Perkbox of over 13,000 employees revealed that 93% faced new wellbeing challenges during 2020. Employee wellbeing will be a huge concern as employees return to work and the effects of the pandemic become more apparent. Managers will need to understand how to spot signs of deteriorating mental health in the workplace and provide or signpost to support for their team members, depending on their needs.
Hybrid working also calls for more outcome-oriented management rather than managing on the time employees spend at their desks. Managers will need to be clear with their team about expectations to avoid miscommunication and underperformance – but also to support wellbeing. For example, you may need to speak with your team to make it clear that ‘good performance’ doesn’t mean sending emails late into the evening to prove work is being done.
Download the ‘Do you still need an office?’ report to read the findings in full or get in touch to discuss how we can help you transform your office space to meet the future needs of your business.