Daily Digest News – March 22, 2021

Hand selected flexible workspace news from the most reliable sources to keep you ahead of the pack. We find all the latest news, so you don’t have to. Morning and afternoon updates. Stay in the know.

Here’s what you need to know today:

Modernizing The Employee Experience

While some of America’s largest corporations have promised to prioritize employee wellness and health for years now, it appears many have not followed through.

However, it’s not too late for employers to remedy this failure in commitment during this once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. Now is the time to start curating and nurturing the “next normal” of wellbeing in the workplace.

Prior to the pandemic, employee wellbeing was viewed through the lens of basic benefits like health insurance and maybe unlimited coffee. But as vaccines continue to be distributed across the country, companies will need to modernize their offerings to create an employee-first experience.

One way to do this is to continue embracing the idea of flexibility in terms of work arrangements, scheduling and pay. In fact, employees have indicated they would leave their roles if flexibility was not offered post-pandemic.

Allowing employees to work when and where they want has been found to increase performance and productivity, and the optimal time to make this transition is now.

Creating a more autonomous and self-directed workplace is another way to keep employees satisfied and engaged. Research has indicated that this responsibility falls on managers, and more often than not, they don’t do a good job.

Still, now the workforce has had firsthand experience on managing methods that do a good job of keeping employees engaged. For instance, research from Topia found that 63% of employees said that part of a great employee experience is being trusted to do their job with little supervision.

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Microsoft To Reopen Washington Headquarters

Microsoft will have a limited reopening of its Redmond and Seattle headquarters later this month starting March 29. This gradual approach will align with current local restrictions and capacity limits to keep workers safe.

“As we watch for progress against the virus in the region and continue to evaluate our guidance, employees who work at Redmond work sites or nearby campuses have the choice to return to those facilities or to continue working remotely, and also have the flexibility to do a mixture of both,” said Kurt DelBene, head of corporate strategy at Microsoft.

This reopening is stage four of the company’s six-stage strategy. Stage four, also referred to as a soft opening, will allow more employees back to the office. Stage five will open offices with restrictions and stage six will be a full reopening without restrictions.

Microsoft is also focusing on providing hybrid work arrangements moving forward, mainly due to the increased demand for flexible and remote working from its employees. 

According to Microsoft’s research, 73% of workers want to continue with flexible remote work policies in the future. That is why the company is exploring new ways to use its technology in order to bridge the gap between remote and in-person work.

“We know there are thousands of ways of working – in the last year our employees have shown what is possible – and we believe that flexibility is essential to maintaining work-life balance,” said DelBene.

Work Personalization Is Crucial For The Future

After last year forced a huge portion of the country to work from home for an unspecified amount of time, the headlines indicating the end of the office started growing.

Regardless of whether this sentiment is even true, the reality is that the new era of work is less about the end of the office and more about the increased need for workplace personalization.

The truth of the matter is the office is still needed, and some employees are actually growing to desire it as remote work fatigue takes over.

Still, the way in which people come together in the workplace will have to change and office design will not look the way it did pre-pandemic.

Instead, organizations will have to focus on how to utilize their spaces to keep employees safe, engaged, collaborative and nurture their overall culture.

According to the book “The Organization and Architecture of Innovation” by Tom Allen of MIT and German architect Gunter Henn, the physical distance between colleagues is crucial to developing working relationships.

“Rather than finding that the probability of telephone communication increases with distances, as face to face probability decays, our data shows a decay in the use of all communication media with distance,” the book reads. “We do not keep separate sets of people, some of which we communicate in one medium and some by another. The more often we see someone face to face, the more likely it is that we will telephone the person or communicate in some other medium.”

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Landlords Aim To Accommodate New Flex Space Demand

Proptech company essensys has released its new Flex Services Platform that aims to provide companies with the technology needed to optimize the flexible workplace experience.

This tool comes at a time when landlords are faced with the challenge of reconfiguring their buildings to make them safer and more flexible.

According to essensys’ North America CEO Jeremy Bernard, office landlords will need to incorporate flex space to stay competitive in the post-pandemic era.

Bernard added that a JLL study found 66% of employees expect some form of hybrid work model moving forward.

Accommodating the new workplace strategies tenants are adopting will create a seamless experience for them, which is important in order to cater to the new demands of employees.

However, while offering flex space is crucial for the future, it also holds its own risks for landlords. For instance, the hospitality element of flex space is vastly different than serving as an operational asset manager.

Additionally, incorporating the latest technology may be tempting, but making sure there is a way to handle these new tools across various vendors and buildings can be tricky without experience.

“The Flex Services Platform is all about removing complexity,” said James Shannon, Chief Product and Technology Officer at essensys. “It’s designed to build on the digital infrastructure we’ve traditionally delivered, which has been about providing great networking, enterprise-grade security, Wi-Fi bandwidth management, firewalls – all the technical components.”

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Novel Coworking Rebrands As Expansive

Novel Coworking has announced it will be rebranding as Expansive to properly reflect the space and services it is offering to clients and members.

In addition to its coworking and private offices, Expansive also offers SmartSuites for enterprise clients, event space, self-storage, parking, hosted data and IT, as well as traditional workspaces.

“Our name reflects the success of our clients, who span a wide range of products, services, and industries,” said Bill Bennett, CEO and founder of Expansive. “Our expanded portfolio of solutions ensures that we fully enable the wide range of approaches companies have to how they will work. It’s our mission to set our clients and members up for long term success by fostering the operational excellence, engaging workspace, and community that help clients attract and retain talent.”

Although the company is undergoing a name change, the ownership team and structure will stay the same. 

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Report Calls On UK Government To Make Remote Work Default

In a new report, think-tank Demos finds that remote working should become the default for workers in Britain and calls on the government to find ways to accommodate this growth.

The report indicates that, instead of being concerned about empty offices in major cities, the government should focus on improving the infrastructure of smaller and secondary cities. 

The firm’s research found that four-fifths of the population want to continue remote working after the pandemic, with young people expressing the desire to have workspaces closer to their homes.

Even more, half of those working from home said they want to spend more money locally after restrictions are lifted, which could help boost the economy in these rural and coastal areas.

“Homeworking is a regeneration tool, spreading the spending power of the people with the most disposable income. Let’s embrace it,” said Kitty Ussher, a former Treasury minister and chief economist at Demos.

At the moment, employees do have the legal right to request flexible working arrangements  from their employer. However, the government committed to explore how to make flexible working the default unless employers have a reason to prevent it.

“Remote working helps places where there are more white-collar jobs at the moment. But it’s important to say that it helps everywhere,” said Ussher. “I don’t think the fact that the positive effects are unequally distributed in the current economic structure is a reason to be against it.” 

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