By: Stuart Oldridge, CallisonRTKL Principal.
We are living in a time known as the ‘Great Resignation.’ It is an applicant’s market, with the retention and attraction of talent more competitive than ever. The roles are being reversed with organisations being interviewed. The workforce is being prioritised over the workplace.
Bringing people to the forefront means bringing wellbeing and happiness to the top of corporate agendas. Within a single company there will be myriad ways in which people want to work. Understanding this is one thing; delivering a model that effectively facilitates this is quite another as ultimately, the workplace is a reflection of workforce, not the other way around – an office reinforces company culture, it does not create it.
The future of work is certainly hybrid but what hybrid means in the context of a working environment has expanded beyond the ‘office versus home’ conversation. The desire now is ‘Work from Anywhere’ (WFA). People want autonomy over how, when, and where they work as the emphasis is on delivery, not location. However, what works for one group of people or one organisation will not suit everyone, so the imperative is to establish a framework that allows the individual some autonomy while maintaining culture, knowledge sharing, productivity, and brand.
The needs and goals of individual locations and teams must be considered uniquely alongside those of the organisation. Where do they align, where do they drift and how will connection be established and maintained if employees are no longer tethered to a specific desk or time zone?
To understand this is to understand that corporate culture must be derived from something greater than employee proximity and instead tap into the five pillars of Meaning, Vitality, Freedom, Engagement and Delight. The key to improving employee engagement, satisfaction and performance while celebrating diversity is a variety-based approach that accommodates issues of privacy, comfort, safety, productivity and true inclusion.
Lessons from the home and hotels
As more companies give their employees the option to work from home indefinitely, many are now paying a premium for an empty office. While the typical office functions will remain pivotal for some, others can capitalise on what is now unoccupied space with new offerings that attract new audiences. In both instances there is an opportunity to re-imagine existing spaces or re-purpose them into a hybrid, flexible concept.
Reinvigorated lobby spaces for example, can become lively areas that serve office staff while also being monetised to attract passing public, with bookable co-working spaces or small coffee stands that draw people in. Another other option is to create specialty spaces where employers or even landlords can provide equipment or places that are not available at home such as 3D printers, virtual reality rooms or enhanced collaboration rooms.
With the reduction of traditional office space, comes the expansion of experimental and collaborative environments; communal zones where people can relax, shop, and work. Staggered working days will allow overall ‘work’ footprints to reduce slightly. Savvy organisations will straddle the residential, hospitality and workplace sectors and recognise it is less about catering to hybrid work and more about servicing the hybrid lifestyle to attract and retain talent.
Furnished with a combination of analogue brainstorming components and new digital tools to spur virtual connectivity, these spaces will take cues from bars, cafes, hotels, and homes. Allowing for good ergonomics, biophilic design will contribute to the holistic health of the workforce, as will natural light, quality filtered air and acoustic comforts.
We are already seeing a shift in the hierarchy of amenities occupiers seek when choosing a new building or renovating their space. Just as outdoor space has become the most prized residential amenity, so too has green space become more important in a commercial environment as employees seek out spaces to decompress, spark inspiration and enrich the workplace experience. Complementing this internally, unexpected pops of pattern, calming contemporary neutrals and colours such as a contemplative blue-green teal, will be used to influence the mood.
While the immediate future of work focuses on keeping people safe and healthy, longer-term solutions are geared toward providing meaning, relevance, and authenticity for the workforce, and generating additional income from mixed-use and hybrid offerings for the occupier and landlord.