- Remote workers enjoy a major boost to their productivity, and today’s offices are evolving to meet the needs of an increasingly scattered workforce.
- More people are working remotely, which gives companies the opportunity to increase the size of their teams while simultaneously shrinking their office space.
- From soundproofing walls to collaboration apps, here are 8 ways the modern workplace is adapting to the needs of remote workers.
Holly Welles is a real estate writer with a focus on millennial experiences at home and at work. You can find more of her research on workforce trends on her own blog, The Estate Update, where she researches the best places to live and work.
Research indicates that remote workers enjoy a major boost to their productivity. Whether this stems from the absence of a morning commute or fewer distractions, it doesn’t matter. If something works, businesspeople in leadership positions will embrace the phenomenon.
That said, the increase in telecommuting has affected the design of the typical office space.
After all, a team still needs a location where they can meet and collaborate. And in a competitive marketplace, businesses also need to learn how to attract workers to their team even if they don’t offer remote work opportunities.
Today’s offices are evolving to meet the needs of an increasingly scattered workforce. Here are the major trends to watch for when it comes to design and technology in business.
1. Office Spaces Are Shrinking
Telecommuting has grown at a rapid rate. Between 2005 and 2013, the number of major employers that allowed “regular” remote work doubled to 33%. But even as a company increases the size of their team, they no longer need to increase the size of their office.
Instead of expanding, many business owners have found it better to downsize their office space. It saves them a substantial sum of money on overhead such as rent, utilities and supplies. Companies can now redirect these funds to improving their in-office environment.
Of course, some office space remains necessary for team members who work in-house on a daily basis, and companies manage this issue by sharing office space on a flexible basis. They work alongside members of other organizations in coworking spaces, making use of conference rooms and other amenities as needed.
2. Acoustic Panels Create Privacy
When employees come into the office, they often feel like their home is quieter. In a noisy, open office, distractions are everywhere. Even employees who stay clear of the water cooler can feel frustrated with the constant din of conversation.
To address the issue, many companies are investing in acoustic panels. These additions absorb sound, where a hard surface would create echoes. Carpeting goes a long way toward muting the clatter of hard shoes on linoleum or tile, and drop ceilings muffle sound effectively.
3. Technology Connects Employees
Today, nearly half of the world’s population is using the Internet. People are connecting through computers, tablets and smartphones. This trend has put pressure on software and app developers to create programs for multiple platforms, giving many employees the freedom to work from anywhere.
Even traveling workers can log into their mobile devices to complete assignments while they’re waiting at airports and train stations. Companies are investing in conferencing software that allows team members to meet anywhere, while apps such as Slack allow staff members to collaborate even when they’re working in different time zones.
4. Focus on Ergonomics
One of the major benefits of telecommuting is the convenience it provides. An employee doesn’t have to wear a uniform when they clock in for the day, and they can even work from their bed if it suits them. Naturally, they don’t want to give up this high degree of comfort when they report to the office.
Companies are addressing this issue by making the workplace as ergonomic as possible. Obviously, a company that receives clients wants to create a positive first impression, and comfort goes hand in hand. Variable-height desks that allow for sitting or standing, oversized chairs, lighting and homely comforts all create a positive environment.
5. Creative Shared Spaces
Business owners have also started to invest more in separate spaces for socialization. While it seems a primarily remote team wouldn’t need the traditional break room, that kind of space allows them to find flexibility while in the office. Remote workers who spend time in a physical location look for community space that offers the kind of low-key working environment they’re used to at home.
Beyond that, creative office design allows businesses without a remote workforce to compete with the perks this kind of work arrangement offers its employees. With at-home working arrangements becoming more popular, an office that prioritizes high-tech tools and a comfortable environment is better equipped to compete for top talent.
6. Attention on Employee Health
Remote workers are free to get up from their desk, stretch and even exercise without the scrutiny of their superior. This is ultimately good for their productivity since regular exercise improves concentration, sharpens memory and enhances creativity.
Even when downsizing, a company should include an at-work fitness facility for their employees. It doesn’t have to be an extensive gym, and business owners can even partner with nearby fitness centers to provide guest passes for their remote workers. They can also offer break time for workers with long shifts to help them relieve stress and build up their energy.
7. Amenities for Relaxation
Employees who work for an international company are often exhausted after they fly in for a meeting. Offering a few select amenities — like showers — can help them relax and recuperate from their trip. Nap pods also go a long way in refreshing workers when they’re weary from a long drive or flight.
Food is also in high demand among telecommuters. Office buildings without an on-site restaurant should organize catering for meetings that remote staff members have to attend.
8. Greater Interest in the Outdoors
Studies reveal that spending time in nature helps to improve short-term memory and boost inspiration. When selecting an office location, business owners should seek out properties with lots of natural light. Locations close to a park or an area with landscaped grounds offer employees a place to walk or relax.
Remote Work is Changing Office Design
Telecommuting has proven valuable for employee productivity and a business owner’s bottom line. With that in mind, professionals in leadership positions should design their office for optimal creativity and relaxation, no matter how often their staff is physically present.
And if your business doesn’t employ remote workers, these tips can help offices compete in a fierce marketplace. When workers are primed to expect more comfortable work arrangements, a focus on technology, relaxation and other popular amenities can draw employees to your office.