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Reimagining the office for a post-pandemic workforce

by wrich

By:  Kerry Rush, Product Marketing Manager at Sharp UK

Despite the immense changes to the world of work over the past 18 months, one thing that has remained is the demand for clear communication and collaboration within the workforce. If anything, the pandemic has meant that employees cherish and see the value in these moments of human connection more than ever. 

With that being said, and as employees begin to slowly head back to the office in the new hybrid working world, business owners are revisiting and reimagining their office space to ensure that they better support team collaboration and encourage flexibility. 

Understandably, restructuring the office environment can seem like a complicated task. It needs to be suitable for a number of different people and a variety of working styles. Nevertheless, now is the time for businesses to embrace more collaborative spaces and systems to meet the needs of their post-pandemic workforce.

Collaboration spaces – why you need them

Office workers are more likely to innovate and create by bouncing ideas off one another. It may sound simple, though the aim of a collaborative working space is to truly encourage and enable this exchange of creativity. The results of which can be fantastic and truly beneficial for business operations, driving better creativity and team performance. 

We know that we spend a lot of our time in meetings. Previous research conducted by Sharp found that the average UK office worker spent 17 hours a month in meetings – and that was pre-pandemic. In 18 months where we have since spent innumerable hours on video conferencing calls, we can say with certainty that this number has increased. 

Whilst we do not know exactly how many hours we will end up spending in meetings in this hybrid working world, especially whilst we continue to adjust to it, we know that it is important to ensure that they are as creative, effective and productive as possible. 

With advancements in collaboration technologies, it means that it is easier than ever for businesses to get the most out of these meetings, whether part of the team is in the office or working from home.

Take stock

When reimagining your business’ space, a good place to start is by looking at what is already working and what is not. Speak with employees and be open to their feedback on the matter; they will be the key users and they can help you ensure that the right technology and working space is introduced. 

The last thing that you want to do is introduce collaboration technologies that do not work for everybody involved. Not only will this be costly for the business, but it will lead to frustration and hamper your employees’ productivity.

How often will your team be in the office? How many will be working from home on a more regular basis than others? What essential meetings are happening, and when? It pays to take a step back and ask yourself these things. 

It is also worth looking at your current and future business plan and factoring this into any decision making. For example, some office workers may not be ready to go back to the office just yet, but will the space work for when employee numbers in the office has increased? At the same time, it is worth considering that a number of colleagues will be joining meetings remotely now and into the future, so any new setup needs to support both office-based and remote working colleagues.

These are all considerations that are worth taking onboard so that you can take the right approach for your business.

No meeting room, no problem 

One of the great benefits of creating collaborative working spaces is that there is no need for set meeting room spaces. Gone are the days of having to manage the logistics of booking or finding a meeting room – not to mention the cost of building and fitting out the rooms with the right equipment. 

Instead, businesses can create meeting spaces throughout the office, such as huddle areas. These can be achieved through adding a variety of different seater tables throughout the office that are moveable. Such tables provide the flexibility that is needed to create a true collaborative working space in any type of office of space, for a group of three to a larger group of seven.

It will also be important to have the right visual solutions in place that support team collaboration and presentations. Moveable display screens will be key here; they are agile and flexible, offering ease of use as and when they are needed to the users unlike their counterpart – wall-mounted screens – which are difficult to use and limit accessibility. 

Furthermore, the visual solutions need to work for the space and the people. Bigger screens are not necessarily better. A tilted screen might be useful to some workers but not others, and technology that is easy to use is often more quickly accepted and gets employee buy-in. However, it will be important that the solutions work for both employees who are in the office and working remotely – especially the latter so that they do not feel isolated from their teams when they are not physically present. 

For those that are in the office, it is worth exploring solutions that deliver interactive and collaborative virtual video meetings but that can also help to monitor the temperature, air quality, humidity, occupancy and ambient light in the space it is operating in. It’s this kind of environment management that will be a staple of future offices, and now is an opportunity to get ahead of the curve.

Accessibility for all and getting the most out of the office

Reimagining and creating a fresh and accessible office space that works in this new hybrid working world will be a worthwhile challenge. It will be key to find the right balance between your office-based employees and those working remotely to ensure that there is effective communication and collaboration. 

Understanding the collaborative technologies that you have available to you will help and choosing solutions that you can enhance if necessary will also go a long way. The benefits of an office layout that is open, easy to use, and populated with the right technology solutions to foster creative and collaboration will go a long way to bringing employees back. 

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