So, what does this mean and what will the future of the office look like?

 

As things slowly shift back to a pattern of normalcy, which we can visually recognize as traffic begins to thicken, I can’t help but hear the rumblings of friends, family and colleagues as they talk about their company start to implement return to office plans. Some with a sense of excitement and others with a sense of dissatisfaction as they begin to wonder if this completely remote hiatus is finally coming to an end.

Depending on what side of the spectrum you sit on, we can all see the news slowly begin to trickle in on company plans; ‘Amazon expects a return to offices by fall’, ‘ZoomInfo plans return to offices in July’, Goldman Sachs CEO strongly stated that this is not a collaborative environment and not their new normal whatsoever. Meanwhile, others such as Ford, Slack and Salesforce have responded in a different fashion, that the Hybrid model will be implemented and utilized.

Gillian Baikie, Principal of Workplace Planning, Design and support of Cresa Global Inc. has worked with countless companies across the country to start making decisions and implement these daunting return to office plans. Gillian offered these recommendations for companies tackling their return to office planning:

“Post-Pandemic, offices will need to be designed as a space where employees are drawn to work. Each organization will need to understand both what motivates employees to want to work from home as well as what motivates employees to work from the office. Taking the best parts of working from home and working from the office will help ensure organizations can thoughtfully plan out their spaces.”

Gillian added, “Additionally, we expect a decreased focus on 1:1 assigned seating at both workstations and private offices; the moving away from ‘One Size fits all Planning’ in favor of creating the right balance for individual organizations, and the previous notion that productivity only happens at an employee’s desk.”

Engaging Employees to be a Part of the Process to Avoid False Starts

While most companies fit the mold and generally agree that they will allow certain employees to work remote 2 days a week, on the other end, a family friend recently announced a full 5-day week return to the office starting April 1, that came abruptly and implemented immediately. As another example, a recent project in the Portland suburbs resulted in an organization downsizing to almost a third and will have three separate teams rotate into the office for a week at a time, every three weeks.

Employee retention and morale are more important than ever (up there with other top employee metrics) and companies will need to take a hard look at how they confidently take their stance on this decision, with the hopes that they will not have to pivot or waiver.

A good first step in this process is distributing a Remote Employee feedback Survey to workers and getting real responses (rather than guessing) to understand where eagerness, reluctance or ambition lie within your workforce on the return.

Gillian summarized with, “Many companies today don’t have access to actual data around the utilization of the workplace. Thanks to new innovations in technology through space reservation and space management systems, organizations can start to gather this critical data during their return to office to help inform future real estate strategy.”

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