5 Things to Expect in the Office of the Near Future

With pandemic restrictions easing, many companies are drawing up plans for the return to the office, but there’s still a lot of uncertainty heading into the new normal.

How will it work? What will the space look like? What tools will be needed to facilitate employees as they embrace a more hybrid approach to the 9-5?

Amid the questions, some key principles have emerged - flexibility, collaboration, technology. All are expected to play a bigger role in the office of the future.

1. Increased flexibility

Staying nimble helped many businesses navigate the pandemic and that need for flexibility is just as important as we move into recovery mode. Post-pandemic, policies and procedures will need to remain highly flexible to accommodate employees if they fall ill, struggle with mental health issues, or have to juggle more family responsibilities. 

They also need to be able to pivot as government policies shift in response to case numbers and potential variants. Businesses that are open today may be forced to close tomorrow, and they should be ready to respond and adjust if that happens. 

2. The hybrid work model will become more popular

Given the ongoing unpredictability of COVID, and the benefits many employees have realized in a remote environment, managers need to allow for flexibility in how staff do their work. In-person or remote, on a device or their desktop, it's likely that future workplaces will be run from both the home and the office. Employees that have tasted the freedom of remote work are unlikely to want to go back full-time to the grind of commuting, working in a noisy open-plan office, and take-out or brown-bagged lunches. For most of us, home is a place that is uniquely our own, which makes it a more attractive workspace. 

According to a McKinsey survey, 9 out of 10 organizations will be combining remote and in-person working after the pandemic. What will this look like? No-one quite knows but while we've all gotten more comfortable with remote working, it's a mistake to assume that the workspaces of the future will try and emulate the modern home office.

A more flexible approach is needed. One that provides a distraction-free yet inclusive space that can double as an individual desk or a meeting place – whether your staff come into the office one day a week, five days a week or just for morning/afternoon shifts.

Hot desks rather than cubicles is one possibility for flex office space. Often used in coworking areas, these are desks that aren't assigned to particular staff members but available for anyone who needs them. Not only does this cut company costs, it also fosters better inter-departmental relationships as employees aren't limited to their own teams.

3. More space to collaborate

Teamwork went digital last year and while virtual meeting apps provided an effective substitute, a return to the office means a return to in-person conferences. 

Communicating via screens for the past year deprived us of natural, unscripted and unscheduled interactions with colleagues, leaving over 70% of HR leaders more concerned about employee collaboration now than they were before the pandemic.

Hot desking is ideal to reinvigorate company collaboration across teams, departments and projects. Individuals can grab whatever desks are available but also move into 'break-out' spaces if they need to attend meetings or workshops.

4. Greater uptake of technological tools

Given the heightened focus on remote collaborations, it's no surprise that this was a banner year for software solutions. There are now a variety of products on the market, designed to streamline the way companies communicate and create.

These include asynchronous meetings for open-ended discussions, Google's Jamboards app which allows for virtual brainstorming on a digital whiteboard, and enhanced video and audio technology to make meetings accessible for both in-person and remote participants. 

Of course, accommodating virtual attendees poses a growing security risk but here again technology can help. As desktop working takes a back seat, firms are adopting more stringent data protection tools that lock down a team's various devices, ring fencing tasks and protecting sensitive company materials.

5. Productivity remains paramount

The traditional office may be changing, but productivity will always be a high priority.

Prior to COVID many firms assumed that boosting productivity required some form of in-person management. But the pandemic showed that remote tools could be used to provide visibility and help  manage employees right from their home office.

Prodoscore is a productivity intelligence tool that gives managers real-time insight into how their teams are progressing. Whether working in-person, remotely or via a hybrid model, you can gauge and measure engagement across the board to find what works for your employees and your business. Schedule a consultation today for a free demonstration on how Prodoscore can revolutionize the way you work and get your workplace ready for whatever the future brings.

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