After years of working from home, the workforce has been easing back into the office as markets reopen and pandemic restrictions are lifting across the globe.
However, employees have changed immensely in the past few years since the pandemic disrupted the old model of work. After working remotely and experiencing the stressors associated with pandemic uncertainty, the workforce has new demands and priorities that are shaping how we all get back into the office.
Not only are workers changing the way that today’s offices are being designed, but they are also impacting the hybrid model and redefining what “company culture” means.
These changes reshaping the office sector are not temporary trends. Instead, they are lasting transformations that are establishing the “new normals” of work, office operations, and company-team relationships
Let’s look at some of the biggest ways that today’s workforce is impacting the office sector, and what we need to be keeping an eye on moving forward.
Workers are Changing the Physical Office Space
When working remotely, employees had the ability to choose their work environments and optimize their workspaces for comfort, productivity, and personal choices.
Workers that thrived in bustling social settings were able to select coffee shops or cafes as their office of the day. On the other hand, workers that prefer quiet solitude were able to work from their own homes. Beyond personal preferences, employees had the freedom to change up their work environments based on the mood and demands of each day.
As employees are coming back to the office, they are seeking the same level of flexibility and customization that they enjoyed when working remotely. To accommodate this new preference, office owners and managers have been incorporating new interior design strategies into their workplaces.
Modular furniture that can easily be moved around and re-arranged based on the needs of each task is becoming more popular than static desks.
Flexible workspaces, including both solo work pods and group collaboration areas, are allowing team members to choose their workspace of the moment based on their tasks and mood.
Office operators are also including wellness boosters, such as natural light, fresh air, and live plants to help workers feel relaxed, comfortable, and motivated.
Demands Influence the Hybrid Model
The hybrid model has allowed offices to begin bringing team members back together at the office again without attempting to go back to how things were before the pandemic.
Hybrid teams blend on-site and remote employees, and rely on technology to keep everyone connected. Hybrid models give employees the ability to come into the office when they prefer, helping to alleviate the stress of a daily commute.
In the hybrid office, technology is used to monitor the movement of flexible teams throughout the office building, as well as to control building systems — like HVAC and lighting — according to occupancy. Digital project management platforms and proptech suites are also extremely important within a hybrid workplace. Fully-synced platforms that are accessible through mobile devices are needed to keep teams in communication while providing them with access to files and tools no matter where they are.
Each organization has its own hybrid strategy. It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, many companies are turning to their employees to determine what the hybrid workplace should look like. Surveys, interviews, and data collection have been essential for informing office owners and management teams about what their workforce wants, needs, and demands.
As a result, the employees in a company are playing a big role in shaping what the future operations will look like once the trial-and-error phase is completed.
A New, Human-Focused Company Culture
After going through a difficult time during the pandemic, workers are paying more attention to their wellbeing — both mentally and physically. Upon returning to the office, the workforce has been demanding that their organizations create safe, healthy, and welcoming office environments.
In 2022, there has been a massive push for office operators to develop company cultures that are human-focused. From creating a mutually supportive team culture to offering in-demand amenities, the office sector has been moving from a work-first to a people-first approach.
Many offices are providing healthy food and beverage options on-site so that team members do not have to leave the building to get a delicious meal or snack. Some organizations are offering support networks, such as on-site child care, making it easier for employees with young children to come into the office.
The industry’s focus on flexibility has been driving changes that are set to last for the coming years. Keep up with news from the office sector, as well as other commercial real estate trends, with the RealNex Blog.