The rules for the new workplace experience are still being written. Employers are walking a fine line as they try to offer up a smart space and place for employees to get their best work done – and not simply reopen the same old offices.
So, what have we learned in the last two years? A lot of things, as it turns out. Here’s 6 things to know about the new workplace experience – trends that CRE and HR leaders know are here to stay.
1. EVERYONE IS TALKING ABOUT FOUR-DAY WORKWEEK
Companies are studying if a shorter week might solve some of the workforce’s biggest concerns as work and work life continue to evolve. The four-day workweek is a solution that makes sense for some companies.
4-Day Week Global is a not-for-profit community that researches and supports a shorter work week. Their research says 63% of businesses found it easier to attract and retain talent with a four-day week. A four-day workweek is already supported by 85% of American adults, according to 4-Day Week Global. Companies of all sizes – including Microsoft – are giving it a whirl.
Microsoft did a small trial in Japan. During the summer of 2019, it gave its 2,300 employees every Friday off with no pay cut. Microsoft’s expectations were exceeded. When sales per employee were used to measure productivity, the company saw a rise of almost 40%. Microsoft said that the trial was a success due to short meetings and remote conferencing. The shift happened because workers only had four days to do a week’s worth of work.
A four-day workweek isn’t just for large companies; it’s been explored at a lot of organizations around the world as a way to improve the new workplace experience.
2. PROXIMITY BIAS IS REAL
“There are still harmful stereotypes that people working remotely are less productive or that flexible work means a loss of collaboration because people aren’t in the same space,” says Blessing Buraimoh, Head of Diversity & Inclusion, EMEA Workforce Advisory at JLL, quoted in this piece on Proximity Bias and other stereotypes associated with the new flexible workplace.
This “proximity bias” may have unfavorable long-term effects on workers and the organizations they work for. The bias needs to be worked on since it appears that most businesses will never return to the outdated 9–5 feet on the floor system.
3. COLLABORATIVE SPACES ARE IN DEMAND
Companies that embrace some remote and hybrid scheduled employees may nonetheless desire modern work spaces, trusting that regular office use would promote employee collaboration.
Companies aim to make conference rooms more hospitable and conducive to collaboration in order to entice workers back to the office. In a Wall Street Journal article about companies’ plans to remodel offices, President and Chief People Officer of Salesforce Brent Hyder stated that Salesforce strives to create shared spaces for teams to collaborate in conference rooms by replacing desks with couches and televisions. The goal is to create a pull towards the workplace rather than a push.
4. HYPERFLEXIBLE SPACES ARE CRITICAL
In a lot of industries, 40% space underutilization rates are real – a number no longer tolerable as corporate and college campuses begin to understand smart space planning.
That means multi-purpose spaces, configurable spaces, and shared spaces need remodeling.
As gatherings grow less formal and hybrid work patterns bring fewer people physically into conference rooms, the size and shape of the traditional conference room is evolving. For better or worse, the ways we use conference rooms is fundamentally changed – which means a new pattern of utilization.
5. SHARED WORKSPACES ARE BACK IN VOGUE
The New York Times’ Emily Woo reports that employees are choosing flexible co-working spaces over conventional offices because they allow them to sign short-term contracts or drop in to shared spaces as needed. These co-working spaces are currently overflowing.
However, even in these co-working spaces, replicating the atmosphere of a pre-academic office is the aim for some businesses. One of the first businesses to return to a WeWork space was a start-up, Merge, that creates business software for payroll, accounting, and human resources. It expects its employees to come in at least four days a week. After the official workday wraps up, they attempt to make WeWork’s common area feel like their own workspace by hosting a shared “work dinner” there.
6. HYBRID IS MAINSTREAM
HR leaders must assess how these trends will affect their organizations both now and in the future, as well as how much they will alter their strategic objectives and goals. In order to draw in and keep talent, an organization’s EVP must include a commitment to well-being.
In one Accenture survey, 83% of 9,326 workers say they prefer a hybrid model — in which they can work remotely at least 25% of the time. At the same time, these employees need to feel connected to a corporate culture and their teammates, and more than 65% across all age groups say they want to see other coworkers regularly.
The new workplace experience is about working smarter – from anywhere.
Nupur Patra contributes to the Blog and Social Media channels for Lambent. She is currently a Graduate Student at Northeastern University in the Digital Media program.