2020 changed the way that workers and leaders think about teamwork and collaboration. After working from home for several months, some people found that their new home-based work routine suited their needs quite well. They overcame the hurdles that Zoom meetings presented and got their jobs done, despite the circumstances.
Now, as companies plan for their return to office, they’re facing some new challenges. Research suggests up to 20% of the workforce would be satisfied with working remotely full-time, even if a hub-and-spoke model becomes the norm. But what about the other 80% of respondents who want to come back?
Here are four reasons why businesses should consider a flexible return to in-person work:
1. Finding balance
Sticking with a fully remote model is unlikely to please everyone — there are still plenty of employees who prefer to go back to the office.
To adapt to both working styles, many companies are taking on hybrid work models that employ in-office and remote workers. Hybrid and flexible return to office plans rely on having a central office (or a series of hub offices) to work from.
Workspaces will need to be adaptive to occasional visitors, and scalable to meet changes in demand without holding into unneeded space. Many traditional offices aren’t designed for this kind of modular work style, and likely won’t be up to the task. In those cases, flexible, on-demand workspaces can be a good solution.
2. Better training and workshops
Despite a full year’s worth of troubleshooting, the virtual process for offering important training to your team or educating new hires just isn’t as efficient as it could be.
The fact remains that getting everyone in one place makes them more likely to engage, ask questions, and absorb the information being presented. A presentation in a conference room demands attention and focus in a way that isn’t required in the home office. Plus, in-person presenters perform better when they contend with fewer potential distractions — after all, it’s easier to present without kids, pets, construction noise, or the dreaded background TV. In cases where you need extra space to perform an in-person presentation, meeting in a flexible on-demand conference room can expand your capacity (and improve the technology available to you) without increasing your everyday footprint.
Physical offices can also be useful when conducting external workshops with clients. After all, they set a stage that is more professional and productive than a Zoom screen could ever be. For client workshops, selecting a private office that is fitted with the best amenities and technology for productive workshops will make a big impression.
3. More productive brainstorming sessions
Finding creative solutions to tough challenges requires fluid ideation and engagement that is difficult to recreate over the phone. The conversational cadence of a conference call — replete with starts and stops and interruptions of all kinds — makes catching a conceptual rhythm difficult. Overlapping voices, lagging internet connections, and muted participants can mean that a lot of great ideas don’t end up on the whiteboard.
In-person brainstorming sessions allow greater participant interactivity, which often results in more creative and innovative solutions. When brainstorming in a physical workspace, people can discern and gauge other participants’ body language better — an observation that can guide decision making and improve communication. This setting creates the ideal space for people to share and test ideas.
For hybrid or mostly remote teams, collaborating in a purposefully designed and equipped meeting room can help foster an environment where great ideas flourish.
The workplace of the future will rely on flexibility to meet new challenges. As your business develops and business conditions evolve, you need a physical space that can meet your shifting needs.
Many offices will be downsizing their office real estate footprint while also hiring more workers than they had pre-COVID. That means coordinating in-office days with employees on a floating workspace schedule long after COVID-related limitations are lifted. When an influx of workers arrive at the office for whole-team or department meetings, space quickly becomes a premium. In that sense, a full-time return to a single office can limit growth and impede adaptability.
Forecasting and planning for increasing workspace demand is essential for balancing a hybrid office workflow. When you have one small office, a sudden increase in hiring during a busy period can tax your resources and impact your productivity — whereas companies that select flexible membership options can adjust their space requirements and commitment level based on forecasted needs.
Many employees will be hesitant to return to the office after a long year of avoiding social settings, setting their own schedule, and working in sweatpants. To ease that anxiety and overcome pushback, it’s important for business leaders to establish a solid return to work plan that includes a well-considered COVID-19 policy.
If your company is adopting a flexible, hybrid work environment, it’s important that you put thought into the space where your employees will return. In time, your employees will see many of the benefits of office life for themselves, from the camaraderie of their coworkers to the opportunities for collaboration and mentoring.