What the workplace means to employers and employees has evolved markedly and will continue to do so for some time to come.Organisations are in pursuit of redefining and repurposing their physical spaces to align with what many have dubbed the new normal.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) are illuminating. The proportion of working adults who did any form of work from home increased from 27% in 2019 to 37% in 2020, with 85% of working adults currently homeworking wanting to sustain a hybrid approach to home and office working in the future.
Indeed, with remote working becoming increasingly feasible and attractive to many, it is time for organisations to fully reassess what the workplace offers. And while we’ve already been well-versed in themes such as collaboration, culture and productivity, the truth is that workplaces have much more to offer than these often cited, albeit important buzzwords.
From our experience in helping clients to reimagine their workplaces and facilitate the ‘new normal’ transition, a key priority has been to remind employees that the office is not simply a place to complete work. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, spontaneous experiences and face-to-face connection brought many benefits, and companies want to rekindle this and invest in relationship building in their workspaces.
Of course, different clients operating in different sectors have their own ideas on workplace purpose and what it means. However, what we are seeing is a core of companies encouraging their people to come back at least two or three times a week, which marries up with the ONS’s findings. When they are back, the key is to involve them in different activities beyond their core areas of work.
Equally, organisations are not forgetting the value of face-to-face interaction in a working sense either. Many of the meetings our clients are hosting are strategic, and they are seeing for themselves how much easier they are to conduct and yield results than they might be via virtual platforms.
The role of front of house in repurposing the workplace
As a guest experience services provider, our role is to ensure this transition and the repurposing of workspaces happens seamlessly and safely.
Whether its implementing extra hygiene measures or integrating new desk booking software, we have had to operate as flexibly as possible to accommodate the bespoke needs of our individual clients as they each face their own unique challenges.
Some will have tightened budgets due to the pressures caused by the pandemic, which has seen them focus on activity shared spaces that can be used to hold low-cost or even free events. Meanwhile, others with larger budgets have asked Portico to develop and implement ideas that will facilitate maximum cultural impact. Among the more off-piste deployments has been a giant chess set in a client’s reception lobby – a space which has been used to hold meetings while playing chess for an hour.
A common task has been the repurposing of meeting spaces and areas such as cafes to allow more formal work to be conducted. By integrating technology and making subtle adaptations, these spaces are helping employees to find refuge away from their desks and enjoy a change of scenery.
As the workforce transitions back towards the office, be it permanently or as part of a hybrid model, it is essential that organisations continue to invest time and energy into repurposing their workspaces. By offering more than just a place to do work, employers and employees alike can make the most of the new normal.