The office of today is significantly different in both design and how staff interact with it. Pre-pandemic, the workplace was the number one location to work from for the majority of people. Now, however, hybrid working is the norm. In fact, in a study of 3,000 office workers and 2,750 employers across Europe conducted by Unispace, we found that just under a third of staff (31%) expect to work entirely in the office, with the majority (61%) expecting to be able to work in a hybrid way for the foreseeable future. This is significantly different to the 73% of employees who were completely office-based pre-pandemic.
The challenge in this environment is making workspaces usable and attractive in a hybrid world of work. Here are the seven elements that will make modern offices more appealing and valuable to employers and staff alike:
The pandemic revealed the benefits working from home can deliver for individuals, with a greater work-life balance arguably more achievable for some in this environment. However, no amount of video technology will be able to replace the human interaction gained in an office. Indeed, our study revealed that 77% of staff across Europe have missed the social aspect of the workplace. As a result, we’re already beginning to see more offices incorporating better social areas including bars, cafes and lounge spaces.
In a similar vein, the ability to collaborate with peers comes more naturally in a physical rather than virtual setting for many. Of those we surveyed, 77% stated that they find it easier to bond and get to know people in the office and 79% stated they could more effectively collaborate with colleagues in the workplace. However, in a hybrid working environment, dedicated collaboration areas that enable creativity are needed. Large meeting rooms are no longer as viable to collaborate in, whereas spaces that are more relaxed and adaptable are more valuable in inspiring innovation.
For most, remote working has granted a greater element of privacy and focus, allowing staff to shut themselves away from others when needed. Future office spaces need to accommodate this and have separate areas for individual and private work. Open plan offices, for example, are becoming less appealing. In fact, we found that 56% of employees across Europe would be happier to go into the office if there were separate areas for collaborative and quieter work.
Natural England’s 2020 People and Nature Survey highlighted that the nation’s gardens, parks, woodlands and rivers played a huge part in helping us all through the covid pandemic, with almost 9 in 10 adults in England reporting that being in nature significantly boosted their happiness. While not all offices have access to outdoor areas, bringing the ‘outside in’ will improve the mental well-being of staff as well as the overall air quality and will be a key part of the modern office.
While many business owners might not first think of technology when looking at redesigning offices, in a hybrid world of work tech has a crucial role to play. It’s important to ensure that those in the office can effectively connect with remote employees. Meeting rooms with appropriate screens and sound systems ensuring no one feels left out of a meeting while working remotely, is set to become the norm for future offices.
Remote working over the course of the pandemic has enabled staff to enjoy the comforts of home while working. While social areas and comfortable furniture will help bring this feel to the office, the ability to be able to access food and drinks instantly – as you would in your own home – will also play a key part in future workspaces. In fact, our study revealed that 76% of staff would be happier to go into the workplace if they had free drinks, coffee and snacks and 79% if free lunches were available.
With the social element of the workplace the key differentiator from home, ensuring people are in the office is crucial. We found that 75% of staff would be happier in the office if they knew their team was going to be there as well. With an appealing office design that incorporates the above elements, businesses can encourage more staff into workplaces, improve collaboration and build more attractive organisations.