For businesses with an office base, the post-pandemic period is causing a significant conundrum. Do employers insist on their workforce returning to the office and as a result, help justify the significant costs associated with running an office building, or do they continue to let workers work from home and risk a commercial nightmare with a building that still needs maintaining but with very few people using it.
For many employers, the answer is likely to lie somewhere in the middle. It is those businesses who have been responsive, flexible and resourceful in response to the pandemic period who have thrived the most and this continued approach is most likely to be welcomed into the future. This means two things: agile and hybrid working, but what do these terms really mean for employers?
Agile working is based in the idea that work is something we do, not a place we need to be in. For an employer, this could mean supporting continued home working, but it could also mean rethinking how the entire interior of an office to encourage more agile working.
Key to this approach is technology and a flexible IT infrastructure that encourages agile working rather than hindering it. Employees need the right tools to be able to perform at their best and creating an office space that supports this will make it a more attractive option for those looking to break out of a working from home routine. Office Layout is an important component as well, with conventional rows of desks replaced by flexible meeting space, collaboration pods and meeting booths all designed with maximum useability in mind.
Turning the traditional office concept on its head, agile working means employees are given freedom and flexibility to work in different areas of an office, or the chance to work remotely via hot-desking at places and times to suit themselves.
Similar in concept to agile, a hybrid working approach gives employees the autonomy to arrange their day around tasks and outcomes, rather than habit and obligation. It blends remote working, such as from home, which offers space to concentrate and supports work/life balance with traditional office environments that are transformed to become hubs for collaboration, networking and development.
Technology and Hybrid Working
Technology remains a key component for hybrid working to be successful. Collaboration and communication platforms must be accessible to all, meetings as simple to join virtually as they are in person. A key principle of hybrid working is that regardless of location, everyone can do what they need to do.
Likewise, how space is treated to enable hybrid working will be an important consideration. Privacy and confidentiality may be needed by some, whilst the very buzz of a busy, open-plan collaboration space will be enough to motive others. To be successful, the office environment must cater for all of these possible needs.
Hybrid and Agile Working for the Next Generation
For the next generation of workers, hybrid and agile working is likely to be standard practice. For now, as employees make yet another cultural and behavioural shift as they return to the office, there is a very real transition period underway. Unlike the shift to home working, it’s unlikely to happen overnight, but those businesses who are responsive and flexible, who have the desire to capitalise on this unique opportunity to reset how the workplace functions are once again likely to be the businesses that thrive.