With companies working on future planning, the question on the minds of many is, ‘What is the office going to look like?’ and “What are others doing?” We’ve been hearing so many people speculate that the office is dead, or that no one will want to work in a big metropolitan city. I decided to sit down with a highly regarded workplace strategist, David Stella, to get the low-down on what we should expect for The office of the future. These are excerpts from that interview
My first question to David was ‘What is the office of the future going to look like?’ David feels certain that the office is not dead because humans are neurologically and biologically wired for human connection. People will always have a need to work together in an office space, however, it may serve a different purpose. Similarly, cities are growing and vibrant, and while some may have left the city for the suburbs, many have stayed and will be here for decades to come. Finally, David stressed that work from home will not be full-time forever.
Introducing: The hybrid model
People may continue to work hybrid for some time. Studies have shown that with this model, productivity has either stayed the same or gone up. Even with the onset of Zoom fatigue, and the desire to see co-workers again, people will appreciate the hybrid model for the reduction in commute and flexibility that it provides. David anticipates that certain groups of people will come back into the office more than others. New hires, younger folks, and those that need more mentoring will likely return to the office more readily. As well, those that need specialized equipment or do collaborative work will return more often.
Flexible work and the human connections
Companies are starting to devise the guidelines surrounding flexible work. Some human connection in the office is ideal, as this is the foundation for trust-based teams, or teams that truly trust each other. This connection also leads to increased productivity and creativity.
With this move toward a hybrid model, David sees many companies shifting away from headquarters and moving to hubs. A hub isn’t just a scaled-down headquarters; it is designed for choice-based working. Employees can work where and when they want, to produce their best work. Work has become a result, rather than just an event, or a 9 to 5.
A Dynamic work environment
Space is becoming more mobile. Technology has enabled us to work anywhere. Pre-covid, office space was left empty 40-60% of the time due to more employees working on the go. Now, post-covid, we’re going into the office for human connection and to create trust-based teams. Our office model has shifted to a dynamic work environment. This is a collection of alternate seating and planning strategies. We are starting to use neurodiversity, identifying how each individual employee works best, and tailoring their work experience to how it best fits them.
Here to stay!
Flexible work is here to stay. People like it! This new pattern allows people to find, and do, their best work. Static, fixed ways of looking at work is shifting. When a company’s square footage goes down, their operating costs and rent costs go down as well. They can now afford to spend more on flexible work environments and technology to support their team.
Testing the new flexible model
The way this new flexible model is being tested is through mobility profiles and activity profiles. Mobility profiles identify how often people come into the office, while activity profiles look at what work is being done while employees are in the office.
Sit wherever you want
The alternative seating strategy, allowing for unassigned seating, is one type of model being used, however, the planning model is more prevalent and is called a neighborhood-based choice environment. It assigns a zone by department, but within a neighborhood, seats are unassigned. These are the models that are used to combat static office space. Architectural overlays of modularity and architectural ability are important so that the environment can move with changes in the business.
Furniture-based solutions are huge right now! Technology also needs to be flexible, mobile, and laptop-based. Recent studies have shown that when a space is designed more dynamic, more employees want to return to the office. Investing in high-quality space will encourage more team members to return.
A workplace strategist is a great investment if you are reconfiguring your office space to welcome employees back into the office. I highly recommend reaching out to David Stella if you need any help or alternatively I can connect you.
If you’re looking for advice on office space in Manhattan, I’m here to help