A recent report by real estate experts JLL on the changing nature of office spaces found that 56% of surveyed senior HR professionals were planning to undertake a renovation or refit of their offices in the coming year to accommodate new ways of working. The report asks the question: does the office still have a place in this new world of working?

Although the pandemic appears to be (touch wood!) waning, it seems the hybrid mode of working is here to stay, with 78% of surveyed respondents saying they expect to still be working with a hybrid or remote model in 2023. With this in mind, it may be tempting to forego the office altogether – but as the report states, the bricks and mortar office still has a role to play.

Most of this role is to do with the human need for face-to-face interaction in order to effectively collaborate and create. When people get together in person, the creative juices flow more freely. Some find virtual collaboration tools constricting, while others become self-conscious of their own image or voice and tend to ‘hide’ behind the screen in virtual meetings.

The office is still a place for all important socialising – which helps to build teams – and to bounce ideas off one another for creative collaboration. It can be used to host events, meetings, and training events, to bring people together on a regular basis for upskilling as well as catching up.

For some staff, home offices may not be conducive to important meetings – and this is where the office still plays an important part in a hybrid model. Staff can book a meeting room when they need to host a client, to keep the professionalism of the company in check.

When it comes to attracting talent, having these options may be critical to finding the right person. While most employees enjoy being able to work from home, providing the freedom to also come into the office, especially when you are new in a role, could give you the upper hand in recruitment.

Encouraging use of the office

Of those surveyed by JLL, 48% reported introducing incentives to encourage employees to return to the office, even if it is only on a weekly basis. For those who are finding their office spaces regularly empty, here are some suggestions for bringing people together and making use of the facilities.

– Social events such as weekly lunches or Friday drinks can be held at the office. This may encourage staff to work from the office on the days these events are happening, rather than just ducking in for a drink or meal.

– Designate a mandatory day when all staff should be in the office, to keep communication lines open, build those teams and create a buzz in the workplace.

– Coaching and training days can be a great way to bring people into the office and remind them that this is a great environment to work in. Up to 60% of respondents stated that learning and development was a major benefit of office based working – and this should be retained.

Why stick with hybrid?

While managing a remote workforce is challenging, there are many benefits for both employees and employers to staying the course with hybrid models. One is enhanced workplace diversity, as the hybrid mode of working opens doors for those with disabilities, those with small children, and anyone else who might not usually be able to make it to the office for 40 hours per week.

Wellbeing is another very important benefit of hybrid working. Even for those with the ability to come to work from 9-5 every day, being able to make your own hours and choose where you work can be a huge boost for both mental and physical health. Employees can take a stroll in the park while they carry out a work call, or get up to do some yoga in their home office without feeling self conscious! Having the ability to stay home when you need some time away from others – without losing out on work – can make all the difference for your mental health.

The new office

As the world of work changes, so too does the role of the office. Of those respondents who stated they would be updating or refitting their offices in the next year, 55% said this would be to accommodate collaborative working, 53% to create meeting spaces for clients and suppliers, and 52% for innovation and creativity spaces. While its spaces and roles are morphing in this time of change, it would seem the office lives on.

For People and Culture support in your business, get in touch with us at Freerange Works.