Interview: The Future of Workspace
A version of this article first appeared at Raydiant as part of its Future of Workspace interview series, which features thought leaders who provide insights regarding the future of office space and how the workplace experience will evolve.
What will be the three biggest lasting changes to the workplace caused by the COVID-19 pandemic?
There will be several lasting changes to the workplace caused by COVID:
More flexibility to “design your day” when it comes to where employees work—whether from home, the office, or anyplace else. When there was no alternative but to work from home, employees learned quickly how to make it work. Now that office workers got a taste of working remotely (and doing so productively), it will be hard for employers to take that flexibility away.
Updated office spaces to motivate employees to work in the office. Companies will invest in making the office a desirable place to go by implementing creative use of outdoor space, making design updates to make workspace more user-friendly, and offering additional amenities.
Increased focus on workplace collaboration and socialization. Prior to the pandemic, it was common for employees to arrive at the office and close their door for most of the day. Now, employees will be able to have those productive uninterrupted hours when working remotely and use office time to focus on teamwork and engagement.
What workplace technologies will be the most important in the years ahead?
Technology becomes an important piece of the puzzle when determining how to best move forward in an environment that allows employees to attend meetings both in-person and virtually. Meetings will involve employees who are in the room physically, as well as employees who are participating remotely. With this dual presence, meetings can feel disjointed and awkward. Businesses should anticipate an increased cost for IT infrastructure, including security to protect internal and external end-users (employees and clients). For the office, companies will focus on increasing their internal conferencing solutions, which means updating conference rooms to include more significant screens, cameras, microphones, and speakers. When it comes to enabling employees to work from home, professionals need to have proper technology to work effectively. Companies that rely on desktops will transition to mobile-based devices because mobility is vital for success.
What will the workplace of the future look like?
The workplace of the future will be very different from the models that many office workers were accustomed to before the pandemic. When companies faced government-ordered shutdowns and office closures, employees figured out how to work from home, and employers realized their employees could rise to the occasion and make it work. As a result, company decisionmakers have changed the way they view physical presence in the office. There are many benefits to having employees together in a shared space including comradery and collaboration. However, organizations benefit from remote work because it offers employees comfort, lack of a commute, and fewer distractions, which can strengthen productivity and employee loyalty. The future will incorporate the best of both worlds: flexibility. Employers will offer their employees a hybrid model which incorporates both time in the office and time working at home. Depending on the specific business and its demands, some companies will outline schedules and specify when each employee is required to be in the office, while others will allow the employees themselves to make those decisions.
What can organizations do to prepare for this new future?
To prepare for the new future, organizations should be focused on rolling out a flexible workplace model, making updates to office space entice physical presence, and investing in technology for both the workplace and for professionals to work from home. This is a competitive labor market, and employee satisfaction in the workplace will become increasingly reliant on a progressive workplace design. Companies can demonstrate that employees are valuable by providing workplace flexibility, and by supporting employees with proper mobile and collaboration technologies and adaptable workplace environments.
An equipped, future-focused workplace will help companies win through employee satisfaction and retention. By contrast, companies that do not adapt to the new reality and revert to pre-pandemic ways of working will fall behind in the competition for workers; this will negatively impact ability to meet customer needs and weaken a company’s overall brand and viability.