By: Giles Fuchs, CEO of Office Space in Town (OSiT)
The impact of the pandemic has led employers and employees across sectors to rethink their relationship with the work environment– with many placing unprecedented emphasis on convenience and flexibility. Amidst this shift in attitude, fluctuating Government guidance on whether businesses should encourage a return to the office has received mixed responses– whilst some favoured the work-from-home advice that returned in December, others labelled it “absurd”.
Within this uncertain context, debates on new styles and settings of work have gone on, without reaching any concrete resolution. These debates are perpetuated by a lack of understanding around what different approaches such as “hybrid working” or “activity-based working” actually entail.
With many companies seeking to make solid recoveries in 2022, it is crucial that businesses take the opportunity to understand the work styles on offer, and to tap into the work strategies that will be the most beneficial to them in the long run.
The concept of hybrid-working has been popularised by the pandemic, with more than 40% of employers planning to adopt a hybrid-working model by 2023. Whilst this approach is seemingly simple, businesses must be cautious when striving to get the balance right.
With recent research suggesting that working from home during the pandemic caused the average output of each worker to fall by 19.9%, home working can have an impact on the productivity and personal motivation of workers. For young professionals especially, working from the office offers vital opportunities for career development and direct guidance from senior colleagues.
Furthermore, working remotely has been found to impact negatively on the wellbeing of workers. The results of OSiT’s recent survey suggested that 37% of workers reported suffering from anxiety or depression whilst working from home, and over half felt that their mental health had suffered during this period.
Hybrid-working is often falsely amalgamated with flexible working. If businesses fail to strike a healthy balance between home and the office, employees are more at risk of being burnout – which will end up inhibiting the building of a happy and productive workforce.
In an attempt to deliver on demands for genuine flexibility and convenience, some businesses have implemented activity-based working, a work style that allows employees to choose from a range of settings according to what they are doing at a particular time.
This approach brings its own unique challenges, with office managers having to provide a choice of locations under one roof. Some of the amenities which are increasingly being expected by businesses vouching for activity-based working include: entertaining spaces, breakout areas, and recording studios to accommodate a variety of activities, such as client meetings, team brainstorms, and even podcast production.
Although this approach potentially guards against “false flexibility”, it can be a tricky strategy to implement. Another challenge it presents is dealing with different levels of occupancy, as some spaces will be used more than others, and some days of the week will inevitably see greater footfall. But, if these challenges can be overcome, the result will be a boon for workers and businesses.
Demand for a wider variety of work settings sheds some light on how the office is evolving beyond its function as a mere work “space”. At OSiT, for example, the “SEMOB” model provides the spaces and services that occupiers require.
Service-Enhanced Multi-Occupancy Buildings aim to provide a service alongside a space. With virtually endless possibilities at hand, office spaces could include everything from gyms and shops to GP services, hair salons, and much more. OSiT’s Monument centre includes bedrooms, for instance, – ideal for stopping over after important business trips or late-night work socials.
The SEMOB model reflects the move to a more holistic working environment. It is important to recognise that professionals travel to the city centre for more than just work, so a space which prioritises convenience and actively meets the needs of occupiers will be popular with both employees and businesses.
Learning to navigate the different options is vital
Different work settings and styles all present their own unique advantages and disadvantages. Making informed decisions about work strategies will be crucial to businesses tapping into the policies that will benefit them the most post-pandemic. Beyond this, the evolving discussions on the work environment are reflective of a real need for businesses to take the changing priorities of their workers into consideration–and this will be essential for a stronger business and workforce.