- Employees are pushing for flexible work, which is defining what we know about the future of work.
- The majority want a mixed work week featuring some remote time along with 2 or 3 days in the workplace.
- The office will remain a vital part of the employee experience and will help rebuild company culture.
This article was originally published on Work Design Magazine.
It’s been a year of uncertainty and change. As companies approach the one-year mark of remote work, it’s time they do a top-to-bottom rethink of the workplace experience.
As Head of Workplace and Technology at Envoy, I’ve spoken with a lot of workplace leaders about what’s next for work after the COVID-19 pandemic.
From my many conversations, as well as the discussions my colleagues have had with our customers, there are four things we know to be true about where the future of work will head.
1) The future of work is hybrid.
Employees have spoken, and most say they want more flexibility in how they work after the pandemic. In a recent PwC survey, 83 percent of employees say they’ll want to work remotely at least three days a week. Employers, for their part, may prefer physical offices but acknowledge that remote work is here to stay.
As Heather Somani, Chief Administrative Officer at Lionsgate, said recently, “Hybrid work allows employees to be able to work from home for heads down, focused work, but come to the office when they need to meet and collaborate with colleagues.”
With the option to work from home or in the office, employees can tailor their schedules in a way that accommodates their lifestyles, leading to greater satisfaction and productivity.
Businesses have a lot to do to prepare for hybrid work. They need to ensure:
- Workplaces are dynamic, collaborative, and cost-efficient.
- Employees can thrive in the office and remote work environments.
- People can collaborate seamlessly regardless of where they work.
While people want the flexibility to choose how to work, it’s important to note that the corporate office isn’t going away. In fact, it’ll play a crucial role in sustaining the hybrid work model.
2) The office will remain a vital part of the employee experience.
In the past year, employees have proven they can be productive at home. They’ve also made it clear that Slack chats and Zoom happy hours don’t substitute for in-person meetups. The vast majority (87 percent) of employees say they want to go into the office to collaborate with team members and build relationships.
At the same time, employers need to lean into opportunities to bridge the remote and in-office environments. Employees who go to the office should be able to be productive whether they’re collaborating with colleagues in the same room or over video conference.
Beyond casual meetups and collaboration, the office offers employees a change of scenery from their remote work setups. A recent study suggests that switching up our routine or environment can positively impact our mood. Pre-pandemic, employees might have worked from home to switch up their surroundings. Post-pandemic, the opposite may be true.
The hybrid model will impact every aspect of work. Businesses should be intentional about making the office the epicenter of company culture, providing ample opportunities for employees to foster creativity, build relationships, and collaborate. That said, if employees need to come in to do heads-down work, they should be able to do that as well. The key is making the workplace flexible so employees can adapt it to meet their dynamic needs.
3) Health & safety will remain top of mind for employees.
Seventy-five percent of executives expect at least half of their employees to be in the office by July.
The conversations my team at Envoy has had with customers have shown that health and safety will continue to be top of mind for employers even after offices reopen. Companies need to be thoughtful about how they design their workplaces for safe collaboration. With vaccines still rolling out, a solid health and safety plan isn’t a “nice-to-have” for employees—it’s a requirement.
Envoy introduced a hot-desking solution to help teams collaborate in person while maintaining social distance. Employees can reserve a desk for the day and trust that they won’t arrive to find an overcrowded workspace.
Companies like Samsara and Lionsgate have used desk booking to encourage employees to return to their offices with confidence. As more people return to the office, tools like this will help workplace teams juggle changing guidelines around social distancing and capacity limits.
As Ivan Zomora, Facilities Director at Impossible Foods, said during a recent webinar, “the challenge is going to be how we get people back into the office. What are we going to do to encourage them to come in when we want to collaborate?” This may include mandatory health screenings, capacity limits, and office layouts that promote social distancing.
Companies need to be thoughtful about communicating their health and safety measures.
Communication builds trust, and employees want to know that their employers are prioritizing their safety. If employees can’t go into the office with peace of mind, they may default to remote work. This would be a waste of facilities and a huge, missed opportunity for employers to reinforce company culture.
4) Technology will enable critical workplace functions.
Technology will play a key role in creating a flexible work experience. Asana’s 2021 Anatomy of Work Index found that a third of employees rank “technology to help teams work efficiently” as the top priority for their organizations this year. Companies need to reevaluate their tech stacks and decide which investments will support collaboration and enable workplace safety.
Workplace leaders are taking advantage of this unique moment to learn what works on a smaller group of employees coming into the office. This gives them the chance to iterate on their best ideas and scale them to accommodate more employees down the line.
The techniques used to support hybrid work—employee registration, hot desking, virtual whiteboards, ubiquitous video calls—are new for many companies. Pilot groups, feedback sessions, data collection, and employee interviews are crucial to getting it right.
Employees will expect mobile apps to bridge the gap between onsite and remote work and help them get the most out of the office when they’re there. Companies should invest in these tools and plan to augment their technology budgets to increase employee access to productivity tools, real-time collaboration apps, and communication platforms.
The workplace we knew before the pandemic has gone away and hybrid work has arrived to take its place. In the new normal, employees will have more freedom to decide where and how they work best. Businesses must adapt to support this new flexible way of working and help employees thrive. With the right technology, supported by practices that encourage safe and productive work, employers can build the foundation for the future of work.
This article was written in partnership with Envoy. Envoy can help you build your hybrid work plans and empower your business with the tools it needs to ensure safe and flexible work. Interested in learning more about how Envoy can support you? Get in touch.