Workplace Trends: Greater Flexibility From the Office

By Andrea Williams
employee workplace experience

Workplace 2.0 emerged as a result of smarter operations, driven primarily by technology and connected solutions. However, the current pandemic has transformed it into something truly unique.

The new workplace is essentially a hybrid model, where most people are working from home, remotely, and others are spending time in the office, safely distanced from colleagues. Months ago, many organizations were forced to create a work-from-home situation for employees, even when there was no original plan in place. Now, many of those companies are gearing up to return to normal — as normal as can be, anyway — with staggered callbacks. To better manage capacity, only a small number of employees are permitted to return at a time.

It can be somewhat disparaging to consider all the different applications and scenarios that exist currently, many of them a side effect of a sweeping pandemic. Some workers are isolated, working from a home office or remote location. Others have returned to the office but must remain suitably distanced from colleagues. Then there are the nomads, of sorts, working both on-site and off depending on their current task and its requirements.

Is this what workplace 2.0 was always supposed to be? Will it remain this way forever, and is this the new normal?

Believe it or not, no, the current situation isn’t going to exist forever. It’s just the state of the workplace right now. 

The workplace constantly changes and adapts because that’s what the world around us requires. Many factors influence operations, including how experiences play out within the office. Technology, people, trends, business, the economy, rising industries, they all play a role in the state of the average workplace. Many of these trends are shaping the business world, right now.


Trends Shaping the Future of the Workplace

The workplace ecosystem is constantly growing, shifting, adapting, and evolving. It means the future of work will always look completely different from the current state of things, pandemic or no.

Interestingly, the trends that have the most influence are all, largely, related to worker engagement and experiences.

Flexible Working

Remote and on-site experiences will continue, and hybrid operations that bridge the gap between these strategies will also persist. It’s true for the workplace, live events, customer meetings, and nearly all facets of a business. It will be so for at least another year, most likely longer.

According to a Gallup survey, 43% of U.S. employees were already working remotely, at least some of the time, well before the pandemic hit. In another survey, 78% of respondents cited “flexible schedules and telecommuting” as one of the most effective non-monetary ways to increase employee retention.

So, employees need a flexible work environment, and that includes the spaces where they will be investing their time, be it a traditional office, one with an open floor plan, or something remote, such as a home office. Assigned desks will grow to be less frequent, with a larger emphasis on desk hoteling and reservable workstations. More opportunities to work from anywhere, with on-demand systems supporting those experiences, will also appear.

Purpose-Built Spaces

What used to constitute the term “workplace” has now turned into something completely different. The workplaces, or spaces rather, where employees used to spend their time are largely empty or under-capacity, and for good reason. What happens when those workers return? What happens when those highly-populated areas are back in use?

Organizations must redesign these spaces not only to be healthier and safer but also so they can be used in a multitude of new ways. Instead of closed offices or cubicles, for example, more flexible pods might be established. They will be used as temporary workstations or spaces, instead of reserved rooms and areas. People spending their time on-site will visit the workstation, use the space accordingly, and then move on.

Other spaces will also need to be converted. Conference rooms may be transformed into work pods, cafeterias, or more modular spaces. Desks may need to be removed or shifted to another area of the property. Because of these dynamic shifts in spaces and workstations in the office, the demand for desk booking technology or reservation systems are becoming highly sought after.

A recent CBRE survey reveals that 85% of respondents demand an increase in workplace mobility, delivered via activity-based workplaces. In other words, they want the kind of flexible and modular workspaces that are becoming prevalent in today’s landscape.

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Employee Experience

While a satisfying employee experience has always been a goal — or should have been — the concept is integral to successful operations in the current climate. Tough times are upon us, and many people have their eyes on their employers looking for support. How those businesses respond, communicate, and treat their employees during these troubling times is a clear indication of how much the company cares. Employee wellbeing is critical, and although it may not seem that way when the dust settles, customers, and partners will care how businesses treated their workers just as much.

Even with an agile and distributed workforce, however, employees still require a solid connection point. It has to be something that ties them back to their experience in the office, linking up the company’s mission, goals, and culture. 

Gallup research has discovered the “optimal engagement” happens when employees spend 60 to 80% of their time working off-site, the equivalent of three to four days per five-day workweek.

Technology Integrations

In the past, technology was often bought and implemented ad hoc and used specifically for one purpose or solution. That leads to a general inefficiency with siloed tools. We can’t have that in today’s landscape, especially with a workforce so spread out.

Many workplace experience solutions, and similar platforms, have multiple use cases that integrate seamlessly with other tools. They’re designed to not only be compatible, but convenient, which ultimately boosts productivity and the speed of operations, as opposed to bogging them down.

A whopping 60% of people say that technology at work helps them feel more connected, enabling more meaningful relationships, while 56% acknowledge it reduces face-to-face or in-person interactions.

A Truly Connected Workplace

The true workplace 2.0 revolution will be achieved when the entire workplace is connected. While we were already headed in that direction, the pandemic has certainly changed the game. By 2025, more than 75 billion IoT devices will be connected to the web, and 93% of enterprises will adopt the technology.

Because even though offices are more spread out, with employees working from literally anywhere, we’re seeing a convergence in social-oriented technologies, services, and programs. They’re designed to bring colleagues closer together, no matter the physical distance. Just some of the features making this happen include transparent communications, access to news and company announcements, on-site amenities, reservable workstations, advanced health, and safety protocols.

The focus has shifted to people, places, and things, namely the use of workstations and workspaces. Desk booking software will become increasingly prevalent as organizations provide more flexible opportunities for workers.

Moreover, new and innovative opportunities to engage, especially with one another, should not be confined to the space inside the walls of the workplace. They should not be exclusive to an office or conference room. Instead, they should be available to everyone, everywhere, precisely when they need it.

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Tags: Blog, Employee Engagement, Mobility, Thought Leadership, Trends, Campus, Workplace, Desks

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