2023- The Year of the Decision
Updated: May 12
We’ll be sharing articles over the next few weeks exploring five key trends we are seeing at the start of 2023. See the five trends here!
Making decisions can be hard when you are unsure if you are solving the right problems. When it comes to your workplace, learning from your people and your data can guide next steps.
New technology, behaviors, and flexible working arrangements across teams have changed the way people utilize the office. These factors are even changing the purpose of the traditional office. Anecdotally, from employees and leaders, even state-of-the-art offices are not matching the needs of employees.
Many employees report a preference for their work from home setups, which they have personalized to support their comfort and day-to-day activities, over the company office. Our recent interviews of forty leaders from top organizations revealed an average occupancy below 30% on peak days. Even with considerable engagement, employees have little desire to return to a pre-pandemic office design.
The need to provide office space that both complements and competes with the remote working environment, is evident to employers. Now more than ever, businesses benefit from creating workspaces that are not only aesthetically pleasing, but also configured to suit the synthesized activities that will now take place in the office.
Ready or not - decisions are necessary.
It is no secret that there has been tremendous change in workplaces over the past three years. While some organizations had no choice but to make changes to their workplace early in the COVID-19 pandemic, others have paused updates and refreshes, as the needs of the organization were in flux and the usage of the office was minimal.
In the organizations we interviewed in Q4 of 2022, leaders expressed less anxiety about creating a formalized way of working than they did in Q1 of 2022.
Many companies have waited to communicate or formalize their new way of working. In workshops and interviews, managers and employees reported experiencing uncertainty and stagnation as they wait for direction from the organization.
As internal and external factors begin to necessitate action, organizations are making changes to their real estate, moving forward with projects and pilots, and seeking to reduce footprint. The need for change coincides with desire for change, creating an opportunity to align their workplaces more closely with the needs of their business, employees, and future vision.
What's your next move?
It is tempting to leave the solution in the hands of an expert, allowing your workplace to fit into their vision of the latest trends. This approach can create a generalized solution, that is unlikely to resolve the "between the lines" needs of your workforce. New products and inspiring spaces alone do not compel utilization.
The success of the office hinges on its ability to support day-to-day activities of work processes. Without a clear understanding of these functions, which are best gained through deep employee engagement in the design process, the workplace may be beautiful, but lacks functionality, efficiency, and efficacy.
As you clarify your organizational vision and gain insight from your workforce, the path becomes clear.
Look beyond your data from access control and sensors, which give an indication of occupation and use of the existing office. These tools have their place but lack the ability to tell you why people are there or what’s missing from the office. The data from these sources is not predictive of the amount of space your organization might need in the future, especially if you're planning to design an office that is more attuned to worker needs. Deep employee engagement including analytic platforms are most supportive of this effort.
The change journey is a continuum, we’ll continue to see new needs and use cases arise as new ways of working continue to develop. Through monitoring performance and effectiveness of the new workplace design and protocols, businesses will have the data to make the necessary tweaks that optimize performance. Technology can help with this along with periodic surveys and engagement with employees.
Pilots provide an opportunity to test new scenarios of workplace, technology, and behaviors that emerge from deep employee engagement, prior to large-scale implementation. Though assessing a solution’s application and surrounding processes, your investment appraisal for the main project will be more reliable.
Understanding the work activities of employees, of all levels, is key to creating an effective workplace experience and design. If deep engagement with employees, and leveraging the resultant data, feels unwieldy, then tools, frameworks, and workplace experts can make it approachable.
Workplace specialists can support organizations through the process, uncovering actionable insights from the barrage of opinions. Using tools such as interviews, workshops, and analytic platforms; workplace consultants translate the needs of an organization into functional, flexible and inspiring office designs that enable employees to do their best work.