Over the course of the past few years working from home has very much become the norm across a variety of industries. This is thanks in part to the catalyst that was the pandemic, and it’s certainly easy to see why working remotely quickly grew in popularity, with no commute for employees and cost-cutting for employers. But lately the backlash has begun gathering momentum…
What is your office for? The team at the JM Finn offices have plenty of options for working and interacting.
Internet connections may have improved dramatically, enabling many jobs to be done remotely with ease but we’re missing the human connection. It turns out morale drops with working from home, along with job satisfaction and company loyalty, as no one feels a sense of belonging anymore. Colleagues aren’t socialising and it’s having a knock-on impact on productivity.
This consistently re-raises the question: what does the future of the physical or ‘traditional’ office look like?
As a collective, our idea of what is essential to run a successful business has undergone a dramatic change and, while an office used to be an obvious essential, it’s perhaps not as obviously vital as it once was. In fact, many employees initially wanted to continue to work remotely for at least a portion of their week once things “returned to normal” after Covid.
A mix of casual collaboration stations and private meeting rooms cater for a number of different real-life conversations in the Envirovent offices.
Now that we’ve seen how we can do our jobs efficiently from home, and found methods that can keep us connected to colleagues, we need to ask ourselves what the office is really for – and is it possible to encourage your team to actively want to be there?
Well, there is no one singular answer to that question. As with a great many things, it’s individual – every business has a variety of different needs and priorities. That said, there are a few key things a company should be asking themselves when it comes to maintaining a physical office space:
- Is the cost worth it?
- How does it impact your employees?
- Can you fit in a smaller office?
- Do you have a nearby coworking space?
- What does your office offer that home-working doesn’t?
Let’s take a deep dive into that last point, shall we?
A sense of community and belonging
People need people. We’re social creatures and this sociability is key to our overall happiness. Happy workers make for creative, innovative, productive workers so it’s in your best interests as an employer to keep your team happy.
Crafting and fostering a sense of community with your company culture is about more than just the odd organised team building day – to really feel like a part of a team, your employees need to go through the mundanities of everyday life, the highs and lows, together too.
The West Barn Co offices showing us just how good belonging to a company can feel!
Creating a sense of belonging when working remotely is a whole lot more challenging. We’re finding that more and more people are struggling with isolation since WFH took over. Some polite chit-chat while waiting for everyone to join a Zoom is not the same as real-life interaction and connection, eye-contact, a handshake, even a hug. You can’t do everything virtually.
Innovation and collaboration
We also believe that a lot of the greatest spontaneous collaboration tends to happen when you bump into each other in the office. The chat while the kettle boils, for example, often leads to some venting about a problem or hurdle, and usually some problem-solving help and even eventually a resolution.
Even in a more organised session for brainstorming, the creative spark happens more naturally when people are together and able to easily bounce ideas off each other, correctly read the responses to their suggestions and get excited about the discussion in real life. This is vital for businesses to continue innovating in their respective industries.
While it’s been highlighted that many employees are more productive when they work from home, it’s by no means universal. For some people, working remotely can cause them to feel like they’re boxed in and they can struggle without a sense of routine. It may cut down on the time spent commuting but are you really gaining that time back in work?
The Keepmoat workplace offers somewhere inspiring to work, so it doesn’t matter if at home you don’t have space for a dedicated office without distractions!
There are so many alternative working styles that exist within companies and it’s important to try to offer everyone the best way to work if you want to get the best out of all of your staff. If you were to get rid of the office altogether and therefore not offer this as an option you’d likely find that, in the short term, productivity and morale drops for some of your workforce, and in the longer term, those employees may move on, seeking a company that can offer them more structure and daily socialising.
Brand trust and identity
Having a physical office is still a strong sign of legitimacy and helps boost trust, both for clients and customers as much as employees and shareholders. With that in mind, we strongly believe that the concept of a physical, central headquarters will be around for a while. Even if the rest of the business moves to virtual and digital, we reckon a HQ will be one of the last vestiges of the physical office.
An office still gives a company substance and identity. It’s a place with your name over the door and continues to give people a sense of belonging and of coming together with a united goal, which remains invaluable. The design of the space is also important here too, as it serves a purpose as a bricks and mortar embodiment of your brand.
The best office designs will incorporate the brand colours and exude a strong sense of the type of company that resides within. In short, you want people to immediately know what you’re all about as soon as they step foot in your office, in a good way. It allows your employees to be proud to work for you.
The Circus PPC space in Leeds isn’t shy about colour and you know you’ve arrived when you set foot in here!
We still strongly believe that the physical office is here to stay and that this is your opportunity to make it work for you and your team. Make the office a space to be proud of and gravitate towards with clever and functional design, space for collaborating and catering for alternative styles of working.
The argument for the physical office being a thing of the past doesn’t consider all sides of the coin. By investing in your office and rethinking about what it really means to you, you can use the space as a tool to go from strength to strength. You’re showing your staff that they’re worth investing in and providing the flexibility required to continue to operate effectively for years to come.
If you’d like to discuss how you could maximise your physical office, downsize the space or cater to a more hybrid working model, get in touch today. We’d love to hear from you!