As we enter 2021, our typical work life looks different than it did in previous years, leaving many to predict what will happen to the future of the office.
With many offices forced to close over the past year, employers and employees alike have had to adjust to the trials and tribulations of working from home. For many, the return to the office cannot come soon enough. The office and its confines create the kind of clear and focused workspace that few can experience in their own homes. Across many studies, many employees have shown a clear preference for working in the office and clear enthusiasm for the return to the office in the future.
What the Office Represents
The office is more than just a place of work. Many see the office as a hub of collaboration, innovation, and productivity. For many companies, the office space is a reflection of the organization’s brand and work culture. Not only that, but the social interaction between workers is also a key aspect of working life — an aspect that many have been missing keenly since the start of the lockdowns. For employers, the office is a place to inspire and oversee; the office culture that a company offers can play a crucial role in attracting and retaining talent, and working in an office allows managers and leaders to supervise staff to ensure productivity and efficiency in the workplace.
At least for the foreseeable future, remote work is looking like the most viable option in the face of regional and country-wide lockdowns. While many are looking to jump straight back into office life once the pandemic ends, remote work does have its perks for many employees. Some enjoy the flexibility remote work allows them. Freedom from the commute and the neat entanglement between work and domestic life have been lifesavers for many workers with families. Additionally, for those who prefer their own space, the office can be overwhelming. In the comfort of their own homes, these professionals are able to work without the social pressures and distractions of other colleagues.
Shifts in the Office
One solution already in use by many companies across the globe is splitting the workforce into groups, with each group coming into the office on different designated days in the span of a single week or two. For example, group No. 1 may work Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday one week and then Thursday and Friday the following week, while group No. 2 would work on the alternating days. This way, employees are able to experience the benefits associated with an office environment without having to risk their well-being in the midst of a pandemic. This arrangement can also benefit those who prefer to work from home, as it allows for employees to experience the best of both worlds. This arrangement could be a viable option for many companies going forward.
The Future of the Office
According to research carried out by CBRE, 81 percent of employers expect at least 50 percent of their workforces to be office-based in the future. What this past year has proven is that an adaptable workforce is paramount. Whether their preference is working in an office space or from their own homes, employees have come to value flexibility of working style. This is something employers need to take into consideration as things return to normal. The future of the office may require a balance between time spent in the office and home.
Daniel Tannenbaum is a startup consultant specializing in fintech, employee benefits, and digital marketing.
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