We must rescue our offices from irrelevance!
Goodbye pandemic? Probably not. After nearly a year in on-off lockdown, the assumption is solidifying that a future with the Corona virus or similar virus forms is significantly more likely than a return to the state of the world before 2020.
While this reality may hit some painfully and unexpectedly, we keep our eyes on the positive side effects of the crisis: we have undoubtedly learned more in the past year than ever before. The supposed standstill has forced us as a society to take the uncomfortable, bumpy step into the unknown: digitization, home office, cloud-based working and home schooling have long since become the “new normal”.
There is no turning back from here, only looking forward
Last year, we took a close look at what the new world of work means for companies. Contrary to some prejudices, U.S. researchers have conducted a broad-based study of 600 respondents to show that the home office does not have to mean a loss of productivity and hard work on the part of employees. The supposed solution is obvious: companies relocate all workplaces permanently to the home office and thus save office and other costs. But this savings plan is too short-sighted.
There may be several reasons why the home office works and is accepted so surprisingly well: The exceptional situation of the “state of crisis” creates a collective effort to meet the new requirements as best as possible. Last year, for example, employees did not work fewer hours, but on average 10-20% more – a situation that is based on the lack of separation between private and professional life and is neither sustainable nor desirable in the long term.
Moreover, it is likely that the success of the home office is based in part on the fact that the majority of the employees concerned have previously worked together in the physical office for months or years. So it is not at all surprising that an already well-rehearsed team continues to function even when relocated to the virtual. A major challenge for the offices of the future will therefore be to promote teamwork and interpersonal relationships – and all this with limited time spent in the actual office. After all, social exchange and teamwork are just as much prerequisites for innovation and economic success as powerful work programs and the right technical equipment.
Offices will remain important in the future, they just need to be rethought
While office presence used to be standard in many companies, in the future it will depend more on a conscious decision on the part of employees, as well as booking capacities and hygiene concepts. Office work must be organized intelligently and flexibly, while at the same time the attractiveness factor of the physical office must be significantly increased in order to retain customers and employees to a brand in the future. Corporate identity and brand values must be experienced in inspiring spaces and through stimulating, versatile offerings. Spaces are needed that enable collaboration and mutual learning, as well as sufficient quiet zones for undisturbed concentration phases:
“A future office structure could look like this: Retreat spaces for highly productive and focused work mix with hybrid and generously proportioned meeting and project spaces as well as open, lounge-like work and meeting, learning and experience areas.”– Stefan Rief, Harvard Business Manager
Acoustics, room layout, the right lighting, modular furniture, as well as ventilation options, air purifiers, touchless doors, elevators and sanitary facilities are investments that will pay off in the long run. For example, “New Work” provides companies with access to sought-after specialists who do not want to relocate but commute to the company location on a few, selected days.
Office concepts are not a panacea, but a good start
While there will be no “one-fits-all” office architecture for all companies, we believe there is a custom space solution for every company that fosters retention, creative work, collaboration and innovation. Using our new tool B.O.X. we identify just that space solution and create a home for your brand that customers and employees will love.
A strategically designed office, based on an in-depth evaluation of your individual employee and customer needs, is not a panacea for all the challenges of the future, but it is certainly the best start for sustainable business retention, digital leadership, meaningful relationships and long-term success.