Five things workers want from a reinvented workspace

As offices reopen, what do workers really want from their workspace?

Fri Aug 27 12:57:00 EDT 2021
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The New York Times recently reported Google’s plan for the reimagined workspace – and it’s impressive. It involves movable furniture, more outdoor work areas and Campfire, a semi-circular workspace which intersperses physically present employees with large digital displays for employees joining remotely.

Following more than 18 months working away from the traditional workplace, many businesses are reopening their offices and welcoming back employees. For some, the space will look exactly the same, as if businesses have simply pressed pause, pre-pandemic life preserved in time. For others, the return is an opportunity to rethink their workspace and reconsider what employees really want from their office environment to help maximize their productivity, feel motivated and engaged. What worked before in a business environment might not feel relevant now, from safety and hygiene protocols to collaborative workspaces and improved technology. These five factors top workers’ wish lists:

1.      Clean, safe workstations configured for mobile workers

83 percent of employers herald the shift to remote working as a success, finds a report from PwC and 55 percent of employees would prefer to work remotely at least three days a week. But it’s just not financially viable for many businesses to provide every employee with their own permanent desk in the office, reserved solely for their use on the two or three days that they’re present. Equally, hotdesking in its former guise no longer seems appropriate, productive or hygienic. Pre-pandemic, once employees managed to locate a vacant desk – probably across the building from their team – they might have spent 15 minutes reconfiguring cables and connections, or clearing away the trash left by a previous desk occupant. Now,  employees want failsafe wifi and clean, bookable workstations which they can use to touchdown, use as a base for the day – and maybe to check their schedules between meetings.

2.      Immersive videoconferencing technology

Hybrid work will blend remote and in-person working, and collaborative tools which support this will remain popular. While phrases like ‘You’re on mute’ and ‘sorry, I lost you there for a moment’ have become synonymous with remote working, when employees return to the office they want user-friendly, seamless, immersive videoconferencing technology uninterrupted by network glitches. Workers will welcome technology that replicates the in-person experience as realistically as possible, that drives collaboration and improves teaming.

3.      Contactless and touch-free

We’ve all become used to contactless interactions, and office workers will expect these to continue  not just in their personal lives but in the workplace too. As well as helping to keep employees safe, touch-free technologies will help business automate and accelerate manual processes, from office sign-in and desk reservations to operating smart lockers for contactless parcel pickup and document exchange.  We recently looked at smart lockers in a bit more detail. Morning Consult, on our behalf, talked to 1,100 US adults about their preferences around smart lockers -  which are operated using software that enables alerts and QR codes to be sent to users’ mobiles. We found the majority of office workers particularly liked the contactless features of smart lockers. One in three in three millennials said they’re prefer to receive their ecommerce parcels at their workplace, rather than at home, but office workers were also interested in using lockers for business-related packages and equipment.

4.      Open, collaborative spaces

Ask your colleagues what they’ve missed most while working away from the office, and many will talk about the informal conversations: the unscheduled meetings and watercooler moments that so often provide inspiration, engagement – not to mention box set recommendations. Businesses reconfiguring their new workspaces are looking to more coffee house-style configurations - open, collaborative spaces where they can talk and hold both formal and informal meetings.

5.      An environment which reestablishes their company’s culture

Building and reaffirming a company’s culture while most workers are remote has been challenging for organizations, particularly when they’re onboarding new hires.  While many have managed this successfully through digital channels, tools and techniques  – and I cite my own business, Pitney Bowes, as a great example – others find it easier to drive their culture through in-person meetings and physical spaces.  Designed thoughtfully, an organization’s workspace can play an important role in building culture, highlighting and reaffirming the values at the core of their business.

To find out more on the benefits smart lockers bring to your workspace, please do connect with me.

For insights on the future of work and return to the office, catch up on our webinar here.