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The office is an adequate safe-zone but it is not yet fit for the future

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Government advice is still to work from home if you can; but many can't.

For professional and personal reasons the first tranche of ‘return-to-workers’ are back in their office space and it feels quite different. HR and facilities teams have risk assessed every inch of the working environment to mitigate disaster.

The small percentage of employees who have returned, though pleased to see their colleagues, are finding that what they missed most about the office ( the water cooler chats, the lunchtime socials, the close collaboration and thought-sharing) are really no easier to fulfil than they were working from home. The ‘keep your distance’ stickers and sanitisation stations remind them of the risks they take by being there and once the initial novelty of being back in the game has passed, they realise they are only marginally less isolated than they were when communicating through a computer screen. No amount of wayfinding arrows offer slicker communication, easier collaboration or a sense of community that unites your people after a prolonged period apart.

For all the preparation and planning, the office currently serves its purpose only as an alternate location for those who need access to equipment or whose home is not conducive to any level of output. It’s a quick fix and companies are already disenchanted.

The reality for business leaders is setting in. The office is an adequate safe zone for a minority percentage of staff now, but it is not fit for the future of your business.

The conversations between you and your employees are different now as more people demand a balance between office and home working so they can enjoy the benefits that both offer. And so you are tasked with establishing a way of working that allows them that flexibility yet maintains the productivity of your pre-covid working model.

Though companies might need to right-size following the pandemic, the headlines calling for the ‘death of the office’ have long since passed as companies realise the importance that headquarters play in nurturing and maintaining a strong company culture and the ability to collaborate, innovate and push the business onwards.

Re-establishing your office as an attractive destination, encouraging people back in and supporting a hybrid working model where staff can work efficiently from anywhere is key to the future of work.

Action will need to be taken.

The re-evaluation of your workplace at this stage needs to focus on user experience and optimisation. It should involve defining what made the business successful before, understanding the impact that the pandemic and economic crisis has had on the business and your people, and appreciating how the type of business you have become will help you to be successful in future.

As social distancing eases, you should be thinking about how you can transition quickly from the skeleton crew of today to a buzzing, positive and safe environment once more.

How small works such as furniture reconfigurations, new technology integration or simple building adaptations not only provide the practical outcome of greater occupancy and communication but can also influence the psychology of your employees, crafting a more fulfilling workplace experience and in turn greater employee loyalty.

The workplace might never be the quite the same as it was, but there is more stability on the horizon and, in this, a great opportunity to re-engage your team, to reduce the reliance on home-working (making it a choice rather than a necessity) and to make life work for your business and workforce.

ThirdWay’s Hybrid Working programme focuses on three stages – Fit For Now, Fit for Tomorrow & Fit For the Future. We are currently supporting businesses through the first two phases, focusing not just on safety but on flexibility, human sentiment, space optimisation and user experience.

For more information speak to our team at hello@thirdwayinteriors.com or 020 7846 0686

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