Good design is good business. As the pandemic evolves and we begin the process of adapting to the new normal, with hybrid working definitely part of the mix, leaders need to hear: it’s risky to do nothing.
Workplace strategy and design should be part of your business plan going forward. If your company’s workplace fails to attract and retain talent, drive innovation, and reflect your company’s essence and beliefs, you risk presiding over a neon-lit ghost town.
These are raw words, but we are in an era where frankness is in order. Consider the findings of a recent study: if employees worked remotely three or more days a week on a schedule of their choosing, their odds of meeting a particular co-worker drops to around 10% — a concerning metric. Some form of the hybrid workplace is here to stay, which means your workplace can no longer be a passive container for employees, but must become a machine of engagement and innovation, flattening the hierarchy and facilitating spontaneous encounters, engagement and mentoring. It must be a magnet, not a warrant.
Good workplace design can help you properly size your business real estate. If employers want to bring people together, human-centered design for the workplace must be at the forefront of their plans. The latest thinking in office design not only maximizes your square footage, but rethinks the entire design equation – for example, the spaces with the most daylight and the best views are dedicated to business in as a whole, not to the executive suite or guest areas. . Good design fosters community behavior, fosters connections, and ultimately leads to innovation and business success. As an added effect, it can reduce the square footage you rent – still one of the highest costs of doing business.
Surveys show a disconnect in expectations
Right now, people are coming back to the office after spending a lot of time pondering their changing habits, skills, and purpose, and looking to the world of work in general. This is evident from surveys, which show discrepancies between employer and employee expectations. Humans are social beings, and mass remote work has desocialized what was otherwise a very social activity.
The majority of people working in hybrid or fully remote work environments report having fewer work friendships than before and report increased feelings of isolation and disconnection. According to Microsoft’s Work Trend Index, this has a negative effect on well-being and productivity. The office is the guardian of your organization’s culture and should have an abundance of spaces that allow people to reacquaint themselves with each other.
The best-designed offices manifest the aspirations and core beliefs of a company. We hear a lot about environmental, societal and corporate governance (ESG). But to prevent ESG from becoming just another empty management fad, companies must first and foremost create a workspace that prioritizes community and employee interaction, fundamental elements of workplace culture. ‘company. Places for socializing and collaboration should be celebrated and located in high-traffic areas like corporate cafes and hospitality-inspired work areas.
A constant challenge
In today’s employee market, attracting and retaining the best and brightest employees is a constant challenge that can be impacted by the impression your workplace creates. Additionally, regardless of the pandemic, the nature of productivity and innovation in knowledge work has slowly become less department-driven and more project-driven. Coordination and relationships will be essential in this new world of work, which means that the workspace must be redesigned to focus on the needs of people around collaborative activity. Does your office do this?
Innovation also requires time for more thoughtful and headlong work. We know that people tend to be very good at focused work from home, but we also know that the office can certainly support this type of work and even serve as an advantage. Office furniture company Steelcase found that employees were more willing to work in the office three days a week if they had their own desk instead of two days a week with a shared workspace. Essentially, people were willing to “trade” a day of working from home for more ownership and control. Many companies are now incorporating this transactional approach into their ROI plans. Balancing this approach with effective design motivates employees to take certain actions and supports the workplace as a strong guardian of work ethic, culture and community.
Ask yourself: Am I presiding over a workspace that uplifts, inspires, and facilitates, or am I overseeing a ghost town? The answer can affect your bottom line.
Elizabeth Lowrey is Principal at Elkus Manfredi Architects and oversees workplace strategy and design.