Finally – it’s time to return to the office
After COVID, almost two years of home working, and employees proving that it is possible to work flexibly and remotely, it’s impossible to imagine a world where every business has employees working every salaried hour in a dedicated company office.
That said, it doesn’t mean the office is redundant. Far from it. When asked if their companies should retain office spaces and offer a hybrid working model, the majority of employees (63% in the UK*) said yes. But those employees had also developed a very certain opinion on what the office has to offer employees (you can read more about that here).
So, here we answer a few of the most frequently asked questions in relation to returning to the office.
On 21st January 2022, the government guidance changed to say that “workers are no longer required to work from home if they can”.
On 27th January 2022, the government guidance was updated again, to state that “there is no longer a legal requirement to wear a face covering” when in their offices, although they were still “advised to wear one in crowded and enclosed spaces where they may come into contact with people they do not normally meet”.
The guidance also states that companies and organisations need to continue to enable homeworking where possible, for those who have to self-isolate. For those who are at higher risk of infection or an adverse outcome if infected, additional precautions within the workplace should be considered.
As we’ve already mentioned, 63% of UK employees who were surveyed said they wanted a hybrid working model, which means a return to the office combined with continued home working. If we are to assume that the majority of companies who can will implement hybrid working models, workplaces in 2022 are going to look very different indeed.
Our opinion is that it’s an exciting time for workspaces. As COVID dragged us away from the office and our colleagues, the working day became solitary. In-person collaboration became a novelty, and as meetings moved to Teams and Zoom, the time for the short, casual conversations that connect us to our friends and colleagues disappeared. Whilst technology is amazing, it isn’t so good at facilitating these personal moments and connections.
In the same survey we mentioned earlier, it was made clear that employees view the purpose of the office, now, to be collaborative. Where home working offers solitude and isolation, the office offers collaboration and community; where working from home allows quiet diligence on the task at hand, the office offers this, as well as conversation, communal creativity and partnership problem solving. And most of us need both to be happy, nurtured and productive at work.
It's an opportunity that employers should grab with both hands.
If you have to ask this question, you might just be missing the point. Employees shouldn’t be persuaded to come back into an office, but rather allured.
With home workspaces often make-shift, lacking in the amenities, perks and infrastructure of the modern workplace, in-office working can take on a new role as something innovative and exciting – an experience that shows employees a happier working day, in spite of the commute.
But if we’re giving employees reasons to return to the office, what does this actually look like?
It might be enlivenment and placemaking, a calendar of free events and networking opportunities. It might be wellbeing initiatives like group walks, free coffee, or opportunities to meet new people. It could be a variety of indoor and outdoor workspaces, super-fast internet, comfortable meeting rooms and inspiring views – whatever it is, it’s an opportunity to find out what employees value, what they can’t get from home working, and offer them exactly that.
We’ve written a bit more about the theme of ‘connection’ and the opportunity therein here.
In the past year, there have been lots of different statistics as to what proportion of businesses will adopt hybrid working – but they all suggest a majority of companies will have adopted it by early 2023.
So, in short – the answer is yes, it will continue. We’ve written a little bit about the advantages of hybrid working models, here.
To find out more about workspaces at IQL and what they’re offering occupiers, visit our Workspace page.
*Findings were published in the Equiem Global Office Survey