Why not stay at home?

Trends Covid
21 June 2021

After more than a year of home working, some colleagues are jumping for joy at the opportunity to go back to the office, others, not so much. Costly and lengthy commutes, dull and uninspiring workplaces, and heightened health anxiety are among the reasons some employees are keen to continue working from home. What has become clear is that the pandemic has changed how we work for the foreseeable future. But this is certainly not the end of the office. It some ways it means the role of the physical workplace has become more important than ever.

Dissecting the office function, it becomes clear that physical workplaces are much more than just a location to facilitate work. The office is a destination that brings people together from different walks of life, encourages collaboration and helps to foster a positive culture, teamwork and learning. They provide sites to nurture talent and development, where friendships can blossom. None of this takes place in the home office, at the kitchen table or the sofa in the lounge. At their core, workplaces promote positive interactions.

We’re moving into a new era of the office. Rather than a location, it is a destination – a service, even. The workplace needs to reinvent and market itself to be attractive to the workforce.

Caring for your employees

For organisations intending to transform their workplace after Covid, large strides are being taken. These workplaces actively promote positive interactions through design and management. And these interactions begin at the front desk. One of the major hesitancies workers may have is a concern for personal health and safety. Though much of the population will have been vaccinated against Covid, the pandemic has made people more conscious of their health and more aware of the risks posed by shared spaces. A friendly and reassuring face at reception can make all the difference. An approachable front of house team offers colleagues the opportunity to ask about precautions and request that any additional needs be met. The human touch reminds people that they are cared about as individuals.

Why not stay at home?

If organisations want to bring out the best in their people, post-Covid workplaces must play to their strengths and remind colleagues what they can gain. Details, from free coffee and snacks to friendly and welcoming reception personnel, create a space that people enjoy spending time in. Small changes can make a significant difference.

The absence from the workplace or low-capacity site use has provided landlords with the opportunity to refit their spaces. Returning employees will expect spaces that are comfortable and designed for agile, activity-based working. Those escaping a busy, noisy home will need space for quiet, focused work, while those looking to engage with their teams should be able to work closely and engage.

There also needs to be space for informal connections. Casual catch ups and weak tie connections in the workplace promote productivity and wellbeing. They can even provide the spark of inspiration someone needs to solve a particularly sticky problem. Lunch and coffee areas offer the opportunity for cross-team and -departmental connections to be built. Organisations with larger spaces may also invest in event spaces and collaboration areas designed specifically to facilitate such interactions.

Collaboration sits at the very heart of what the workplace has to offer above home working. Organisations that fail to engage with this potential will lose much of what their teams have to offer. In an era when homeworking is looking like it will be here to stay, organisations have the chance to test whether their office is really doing its job. After all, employees will vote with their feet. Small changes can make a big difference and organisations looking to thrive will invest in their assets.