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The Office Isn't Dead

While many people have been away from the office for a year now, it can be easy to dismiss going back into a physical workplace. The day-to-day has shifted into a digital world and individuals have found a way to make work successful from a remote environment. The level of adaptability this past year should not go unrecognized – there were many benefits to having people pivot to working remotely. This past year we have become more creative and have leveraged new approaches to our work. We have embraced the opportunity to explore technology solutions that existed but were not mainstream avenues of connection before the pandemic. We have accelerated new innovations and thought differently about our business and about what the future might look like. Even the idea of returning to simpler ways of living and striking that work/life balance that has been thrown around for a very long time was possible to explore.

There has also been a lot of disruption in the past year – change that will continue to have an impact moving far into the future and possibly resetting what it means to have a “desk job”. Future generations may never know what that term even means. What does that mean for the office? Are people going to need to go into the office ever again? Does it become a forgotten place of times past?

  • Date March 2021
  • Written by Sarah Davis, BI Account Director
  • Topic Strategy
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At Pophouse, we study workplace strategy and have a data-driven approach to design that we have leveraged on largescale corporate office spaces. Through our research and first-hand experience on projects, we do not consider the physical office to be a thing of the past. We still regard it as a vital and critical setting in the pursuit of positive business outcomes.

While the future of work is yet to be determined, we do know that it will go through an evolution. This pandemic has shown that employees can work from home full-time and for a long duration of time. The ways in which the office will adapt will reveal themselves over time, with the potential of being unique by region, industry, and size of the company. However regardless of the unknowns, the trajectory of the office was tracking towards change for years.

Individuals will now prioritize their time traveling into the office with purpose and maintain remote work as their personal time to focus on independent tasks. That leaves the office as a destination for communal work with the intention of an experience-driven excursion. Decision makers for office space need to fully explore the value of the workplace and ensure that the built environment is set up in a way to deliver these core needs. The office of yesterday was generally not designed with this new perspective in mind.

How does the office play an integral role in an individual’s career, their connection to the team and their colleagues? And how does the office emphasize elements that promote stronger business outcomes? Let’s explore a few factors of the physical office footprint in more depth.

Culture

When employees move onsite to work, an important factor to engage with will be the culture of the organization. Moving through their remote spaces to do work, the culture of a company can be lost and not fully felt as deeply as one can when surrounded in a space that is built upon the important tenets of that company. This brand immersion is important. Research has shown  that performance of a team increases when they are interacting in an environment that reflects their identity. The culture can manifest itself with core values, philosophies or imagery that shares the mission and essence of an organization. This transfusion of the culture is something that will continue to be pervasive with an individual as they move back to their remote workspace until they are able to come onsite again. Culture will unite individuals to the organization and invigorate them with energy and purpose.

Collaboration

The ability for individuals to be able to work together through the pandemic has consistently been cited as one of the most missed benefits of being in the office. While we have worked through the process of dialoging and building with our fellow colleagues through our time remote, there really is no replacement for the opportunity to be physically together. Being onsite, individuals will be looking to engage with their teammates to move projects forward and to ideate together. Creating spaces in your office that are less about the heads down, independent style of work and providing more diverse spaces for people to come together in settings that are inclusive and functional for equity and stimulation will be important. Multiple minds are stronger than one and progress can be uncovered when individuals dig in together towards the same goal.

Individuals will prioritize their time traveling into the office with purpose and maintain remote work as their personal time to focus on independent tasks.

Connection

Throughout the isolation that the quarantine has brought to so many of us, being able to physically be around others outside of our immediate family was a special treat. The connection between colleagues is significant, with studies showing how having a strong, trusted network of people at the office supports the retention of talent and engagement in your organization. Setting up space that allows individuals to have casual interactions throughout the office and moments to pause to cultivate personal and professional conversations helps all feel more invested and part of the larger community.

Innovation

One of the many lessons of the pandemic was how fast life can change and that being adaptable is critical to organizational success. Many companies had to change directions completely and adopt new processes or products to survive and be relevant. Pivoting at such a large scale takes a significant amount of thought and consideration, all based on the ability for a company to be creative and innovative. Moving forward, our world will demand new services and offerings. To position your team members to have the needed breakthroughs that contribute to that progress, you need to establish settings in your office that emphasize inspiration and encourage cognitive functioning. In many ways, the offices we left in 2020 were not set up to support team members in this way and will need to be adjusted to allow for a new way of working moving forward.

The physical office is transforming, and this process will persist as companies and individuals settle into this next gear shift, a monumental one for the way we operate. The essential role that the office plays will continue, albeit in a new and refreshed version. Stronger in intention and thoughtfully assembled to carry us into a new phase of work reimagined. If you would like to talk to us about designing a space that works for your needs, please contact us at bizdev@pophouse.design

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