Just like there is no place like home, there is no place like work. That is according to the U.S. Workplace Survey 2020 published by Gensler in late May. The study measured how people work, their experience in the workplace, and the effectiveness of its design.
Being that the study was conducted before the pandemic had taken a complete toll, people were asked: Where do people prefer to work? An employer’s workplace, a coworking space, a coffee shop, or at home? Surprisingly, a significant number of knowledge workers chose an employer’s workplace. However, the workplace had to be well-designed to suffice their demands. In other words, the workplace still matters to a majority of employees.
Reimagining the Workplace Post COVID-19
COVID-19 has made adopting new work methodologies compulsory. In turn, organizations have had to reimagine designing productive, enjoyable, and safe work environments. The pandemic has definitely brought the best out of us, with countless displays of humanitarianism on all levels. Many organizations small, medium, and large have acted swiftly to protect their employees and the public. To achieve this, organizations developed innovative ways of working that transcend even the most extreme business continuity and resiliency planning.
Leaders across industries will most definitely use the lessons garnered from this voluminous work-from-home experiment. They will use what they learned to reimagine how people get things done—and the role workspaces will play—in creative and enterprising ways.
Nonetheless, before the pandemic, the rationale has been that offices were essential to productivity, culture, and winning the war for talent. Organizations compete intensely for top-tier commercial space in major urban centers around the globe. In doing so, many focused on solutions perceived to encourage collaboration. Co-working, open-offices, office hoteling, densification have long been the leading trends. The problem now is, an estimated 62 percent of employed Americans worked remotely from home since as early as April. Compared to the same time last year, this is an astounding 37 percent increase.
Working From Home Has Been Productive and Enjoyable … But
When Gensler conducted its Work From Home (WFH) Survey, knowledge workers in the United States reported gains in their capacity to finish individual tasks. They also reported a significant improvement in their personal creativity. Additionally, McKinsey Insights found that 60 percent of organizations reported new remote sales models proved equally or more profitable than conventional channels. Enterprises have adopted new platforms and technologies practically overnight. Surprisingly, these new platforms and technologies have performed exceptionally well—beyond everyone’s expectations.
For the most part, working remotely hasn’t been an issue for most people. People have been afforded the unique opportunity to spend valuable time with their families while making a living. On top of that, remote work has accelerated innovation, developed shared purpose, and improved decision-making. Through these newfound etiquettes, employers hope to reconceive a new and fresh workplace environment. But are people ready for yet another significant change? Do they feel equally optimistic about returning to an entirely new way of doing things?
Gensler’s WFH Survey seems to suggest that they’re not only ready but very optimistic about returning to the workplace post-COVID-19. Gensler’s research revealed that most Americans weren’t accustomed to working from home on a regular basis. Approximately 10 percent of those surveyed regularly worked from their home pre-pandemic. Those not used to working from home said they’re excited about returning to work. Only 12 percent prefer to continue working from home, which is merely a two percent increase compared to before the pandemic.
While most of the people in the WFH study prefer returning to work full time, some would like to maintain an equal balance between working from home and at the office. Nonetheless, they still would rather work from home two-to-three days or less.
Working Among Our Colleagues Means More Now Than Ever
Working from the privacy of our homes allows us to be more focused and creative. The pandemic has made face-to-face collaboration dangerously impossible. Five months in and counting, we’re beginning to comprehend the importance of human interaction, even if it’s through shared work experience.
Remember those “boring” meetings with coworkers and clients? Do you miss socializing with colleagues? Are you looking forward to making unexpected connections with others in passing? What about the value of hands-on learning, something that can only take place with others?
As the adage goes: “You never know what you have until it’s gone.” Gensler’s study revealed that for most people, the top reasons for returning to the workplace reconnecting with colleagues, building community, attending meetings, and socializing. This shows us the importance of being face-to-face with our colleagues; it’s an invaluable component of the workplace experience. We’ve learned that such experiences can’t be replicated virtually.
In a post-COVID-19 era, the reimagined workplace will be transformed into a vital space where we come together for purposes beyond clocking a nine-to-five. Instead, the post-COVID-19 workplace will be a social place where we also happen to work with others. A reimagined workplace becomes a gathering place of like minds—a place where co-employees become members of a close-knit community.
As our sentiments towards the workplace change, the physical workspace must be redesigned. Office spaces in a post-COVID-19 era should be supportive of the role its occupants expect of it. This means introducing new space designs that provide an employee-centric environment; spaces where your employees are secure, strong, and enabled. Reimagined workplaces are designed to encourage healthy behaviors by making people feel that the work they do is valued. Lastly, and most importantly, workspaces should be redesigned for the post-COVID-19 era. This includes things like implementing social distancing cues, thinning out seating arrangements, configuring individual settings for each employee, among other things.