The great return to the office that some predicted has gone out with a whimper, not a bang. Firms opposed to remote working, such as Goldman Sachs, have seen lower occupancy rates than expected despite mandating that their staff return to work full-time.
Workers and progressive management have realized staff can work just as – if not more – effectively from home. Getting staff to commit to the old inflexible ways of office-based working is a struggle and cajoling staff will not work.
Leaders need to look at the employee experience in a more organic and constantly evolving way and provide a compelling motivation for staff to return to the office.
Employees have been given more flexibility and they have run with it. Where once they would have been content to spend the 9-5 at an office, they are enjoying the freedom of working wherever they want on their own schedule.
They are certainly exercising that freedom to choose. A recent article by JLL suggests that over a third of employees are working in hotels, cafes, and coworking spaces at least once a week in addition to the home or office work.
These third spaces are going to be an attractive option for employees going forward.
The office is not dead
While the flexibility of hybrid working has its attractions and benefits it can have its downsides too.
If an employee is spending too much of their time in, what JLL term, “hyper hybrid” mode they can risk becoming isolated.
For younger workers, hybrid may not be the solution for them if they are living in cramped shared accommodation with no dedicated workspace. Similarly, they may miss the vital face-to-face mentorship opportunities that being in the office brings.
Another downside is that by being physically less visible remote staff become effectively invisible – their management may not consider them for promotion, projects or pay raises simply because they have rarely interacted face to face. Worse, with no office presence they become expendable if layoffs happen.
As Johnny Taylor Jr., president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, notes:
“More than two-thirds of supervisors (67 percent) consider remote workers more easily replaceable than onsite workers, and 62 percent believe fully remote work is detrimental to employees’ career objectives. Managers acknowledged that when they are looking to give an assignment, they oftentimes forget the remote worker. Proximity matters.”
The office is far from dead and it certainly does have a place. Rather than being a place for “butts in seats” it is being repurposed as a place for the coming together of ideas, for mentorship and collaboration with inclusion at its core.
Time for empowerment
Progressive organizations are now moving to an empowered hybrid working model. Rather than impose a binary choice of remote vs office working, workers can choose where they work best. As long as they get the work done whether they sit in an office, a coworking space or their kitchen is irrelevant.
While being a flexible model it also recognizes, and allows, for the the fact that for the more extroverted worker, being in the office can be more productive and preferable than working remotely where they have no-one to bounce off.
It also addresses the fact that when people are together face to face – even briefly – those deeper relationships can be built far better and faster than via Zoom or Teams. Trust is difficult to convey on a computer screen. Collaboration and decision making is faster too when people are in close proximity.
A key component of empowerment is ensuring that the office environment is as appealing as possible. Hot desks need to be available, Wi-Fi needs to be working, meeting rooms need to be equipped with Teams and Zoom, coffee and refreshments need to be in plentiful supply. In short, a day in the office needs to be an exciting proposition that compares favourably to the alternatives.
Technology to the rescue
In order to develop and embed this best of all worlds empowered hybrid approach, organizations need a technology toolkit which offers a great digital experience for those who want to work in the office regularly and for those whose visits are less frequent.
The ideal feature set comprises:
Desk booking – using an intuitive mobile app, staff can book a desk ahead of time with a few taps on their device. With full integration between the desk booking system and Outlook their calendar is always in sync and, once booked, they can get on with the rest of their day safe in the knowledge that their next office visit is fully organized.
Features, such as floorplan booking, make it even easier to select and book a desk. Color-coding makes it easy to visualize desk availability.
Flexible booking features – as the working day is more fluid these days, the new breed of desk booking system includes features such as half day or hourly booking – ideal for workers who only need to pop into the office for a short time and it ensures that desks are fully utilized.
Find a colleague – a key feature for any hybrid workplace. Using the floorplan, staff can locate their team members and book a desk near to them if they desire.
As well as being great for collaboration it removes all the guesswork from planning a day in the office. It is easier to make the decision to book a face-to-face meeting, book a video call or a combination of both when you are armed with peoples’ whereabouts.
Touchless check in/out – integration with QR codes, sensor technology and desk panels enable staff to check in and out in the most efficient manner. In-app booking is also now an option.
The desk booking system can also auto-release desks that haven’t been checked in to someone who needs them. The impact of “ghost bookings” and no-shows is minimized.
Meeting room booking – of course the meeting room is still the hub of face to face collaboration and ideation. A good meeting room booking system will enable you to book your rooms efficiently while integration with Outlook ensures that all attendees are kept in the loop of any changes.
Integration with video conference platforms enables you to book multi-location meetings with ease and is ideal for getting virtual team members involved.
All the niceties of meeting in the office, such as car parking, coffees and lunch, can be organised in a few mouse clicks – for all locations.
Management information – the desk booking system offers key data about desk occupancy and peak utilization which can drive policies and future real estate decisions.
Triangulating data sets between meeting room booking software, desk booking system and integrated occupancy sensors gives the clearest picture of how space is actually used and a possible starting point for the future.
Hybrid working is here to stay. Old management styles of micromanagement and presenteeism are on the way out.
Thanks to technology such as Rendezvous, staff can book desks and organize meetings efficiently while also managing all the attendant aspects of the new hybrid world such as video conferencing and with its mobile-first approach it is ideal for today’s agile worker.
As staff work more flexibly a mobile app that allows the booking of different space types as well as services as a single experience is the best tool for staff to use.
We have recently produced a great guide to help organizations improve desk utilization and drive a great employee experience – download it today.