Return To The Office

HomeWorkplace 2021

Welcome to #workplace2021

How will your return to the office look and feel in 2021?

With vaccines definitely heading our way, there’s no doubt a return to the office will feel easier in 2021. But some fundamental changes will be well established – and now is the time to plan for them.

With pundits already discussing a re-imagining of the office, let’s look at what’s ahead for #workplace2021 - and what the opportunities are for maximum efficiency, wellbeing and productivity.

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What 5 key changes does return to the workplace need to accommodate?

  • The home working revolution
  • Growing collaboration
  • New technologies
  • A reduced office footprint
  • Employee demands, perspectives and wellness

The home working revolution

Covid19 has shown that employees can work just as productively from home as they can from the office.

Firms including Google have already suggested that some workers may NEVER return to the office, and others are likely to embrace remote working or a hybrid approach split between office and home.

This hybrid approach is popular among knowledge workers. A recent Workplace Transformation study of over 9000 workers by Slack found that 72% of workers preferred the flexibility of choosing where they worked.  

The traditional office is far from finished – but it’s not going to be the only game in town. As an employer, you need to think about how you can attract and engage this workforce.

Growing collaboration

The drive to remote and hybrid working has seen advances in virtual technology, and the lines between virtual and physical are becoming increasingly blurred.

Microsoft have even developed in-room devices which are completely touch free with meeting attendees only needing to touch their own devices to share files.

Workplace leaders will be working hard in 2021 and beyond to refine this blended collaboration, and it’s worth the effort – companies that foster working together perform up to 5 times better than companies that don’t.

New technologies

One accelerating technological trend in #workplace2021 will be integration, as consumers demand more from their devices and software. 

Big names such as Samsung, Google and Microsoft are actively collaborating and sharing their expertise to deliver ever more exciting digital experiences. 

With this flexibility comes the need to offer more mobile devices to navigate the digital workplace – speeding up essential remote processes such as video calling or email, and helping people organize their day.

Mobile devices are also revolutionizing the use of desks, which can now be booked simply via an app. The same app can locate and reserve Teams, Zoom and Skype enabled meeting rooms quickly, making the most of the rapidly-evolving collaboration technologies. 

A reduced office footprint

While many worked at home during the pandemic, offices still needed all their space because of the need to accommodate social distancing.

But a survey of the UK Institute of Directors in October 2020 showed that more than half of company bosses are planning to cut back office space as homeworking continues.

It’s a cost-saver, no doubt – but not if it becomes counter-productive. Offices provide space for the lifeblood of any organization – collaboration, human contact, culture – and companies will need to plan their space carefully to ensure maximum utilization and minimum disruption to staff and operations.

Again, agile working software will have a huge part to play in supporting the new real estate plan.

Employee demands, perspectives and wellness

Wellness is set to remain at the top of the business agenda for #workplace2021.

Happy, healthy workers are productive, take fewer sick days and tend to stay in jobs longer. Yet many organizations previously paid lip-service to the concept of a good work-life balance.

They’ll have to do better as the return to the office takes place. Studies show that people appreciate being trusted – over three-quarters who say their boss doesn’t trust them also say they will look for a new job within months.

That’s dire news for workplace leaders looking to retain and grow talent. Because recruitment and training are costly and disruptive, it pays to create conditions that keep staff comfortable, healthy and loyal.

What will deliver the best outcomes for staff and employers return to the office in 2021?

The situation is still shaping up and many unknowns are still in play – the length of time it will take to vaccinate everyone, for instance.

But although planning ahead now might seem like building on sand, there are elements you can consider now – together with the reliable workspace data that your workplace technology will have captured before and during the crisis.

We’ve looked to our own international client base and other organizations for examples of best practice in operation.

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6 top trends to act on now for #workplace2021

Greater flexibility


Greater adoption of the right technology


An enlightened approach to staff engagement


Better planning for the home working revolution


A new approach to management/leadership


Creating collaboration centres of excellence


Greater flexibility

There’s never really been a one-size-fits-all solution to creating efficient and effective operations and driving productivity, and that’s even more so.

So as workplace leaders start building on the shifting sands we mentioned above, flexibility is even more important than ever. The truth is, some organizations previously had a poor record in this area, but they have now learned the hard way that flexibility is a virtue. 

So the trick now is to take the lessons learned during the pandemic and evolve them into a workplace that truly flexes to meet the needs not only of the company, but also its employees. And then flexes again…and again. As many times as it needs to.

The problem is that flexibility, done wrong, can look a lot like chaos. Keeping track of workers, where they are and what they are doing is a big task, and so is driving collaboration when not all attendees are in the same room.

As business functions experts McKinsey point out: “History shows mixing virtual and on-site working might be a lot harder than it looks, despite its success during the pandemic…Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer ended that company’s remote-working experiment in 2013, observing that the company needed to become ‘one Yahoo!’ again.”

So this is where the savvy workplace leaders of #workplace2021 will be leaning hard on their workspace technology. 

They’ll use it not only to keep track of workers and resources, ensure great space utilization and promote collaboration, but also to provide the real-time data that supports good, cost-effective decisions.

An enlightened approach to staff engagement

Managers are already pondering how to make sure staff feel part of a team when they’re not physically in the room for part – or all – of the working week.

That’s why the new role of Head of Remote is trending around the world – tying in HR with management and technology to pull a team together when face-to-face is not always possible.

The new Heads of Remote, and others who perform the engagement role, have 5 key challenges ahead of them in #workplace2021 – check out the solutions in this NFS guide.

Better planning for the home working revolution

Even if your staff have been working from home for the past eight months or so, it’s ambitious to think you’ve got it sorted; getting it right is a continuing process of refinement.

The NFS client IDC, the premier global market intelligence company, provides a good example of a company that has successfully adopted a whole new approach when it comes to staff engagement and technology support in key areas including mobile, sensors and digital signage.
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A new approach to management/leadership

A successful workplace strategy is only possible when you have alignment of some key aspects of the leadership agenda. 

Start by embracing home working, rather then resisting this reality. This change will generate the positive leadership energy to drive the most important aspect of the  ‘new’ leadership agenda, enhanced and frequent communications. 

With remote working, the leadership team also has a unique opportunity to focus on talent acquisition, your key to competitive advantage. 

Finally, set the norms and guidelines that reflect both the value system of the business and clear expectations and boundaries. For example, all managers will make time for a 15-minute video call with their teams at the start of every day. 

This will set ground rules for both positive engagement and also provide the early feedback systems so critical to staff wellbeing and productivity, as well as engendering a sense of belonging – this is a critically important leadership responsibility.

Discover more in this Deloitte report on post-pandemic new leadership in action.

Creating collaboration centres of excellence

What will the office model of the future look like? We think we know, courtesy of a project we are working on with Lendlease, one of the biggest property companies in Australia.

They are developing a collaborative centre of excellence with the University of Melbourne, where multiple tenants will share space and resources in an impressive building.

Sharing means fewer facilities are needed and less square footage is wasted – but charging each tenant accurately could be a headache.

Step forward Rendezvous workspace scheduling technology from NFS, which will allow Lendlease to supply digital coupons to tenants that they can ‘spend’ on desks, meeting spaces and other facilities.

It’s a practical, easy, customer-friendly solution – and a perfect example of innovative thinking combined with cutting edge technology that will be a shining example in #workplace2021.

Our near-future vision

A return to the office is going to be an exciting and different experience in 2021.

Technology will be driving that #workplace2021 experience whether it’s through collaborative meeting technology, office productivity suites, mobile computing, sensor technology or a combination of all these elements. 

Joining the digital touchpoints together into an integrated ecosystem is the best way to create a seamless, safe and truly agile workplace.

We believe these changes will usher in a new era of productivity and worker wellness

Employees who return to the office will spend less time trying to find a workspace or organizing videoconferences and more time on billable knowledge work.

They’ll enjoy their time in the office more – and they’ll feel less frustrated and stressed too. That’s a win-win for absolutely everyone.


Keep up to date with the latest news from the workspace industry – follow us on LinkedIn #workplace2021


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