Another challenging year for business is drawing to a close. And while it’s unclear at this stage what 2022 holds for us all – particularly within the context of the pandemic – now is the time for organizations to consider how they’ll operate in the months to come.
Certainly, some have been much more successful than others in pivoting from full remote working towards a return-to-office strategy that combines home and office-based work. But even these businesses need to be prepared for the unknown obstacles that lie ahead, and for continuing changes to employee feelings and expectations. For example: you may feel that you have put in place a safe, compliant, flexible model for your workforce to come into the office… but will your employees see it that way?
In this blog, we’ll explore three key trends that will define much of the world of work in 2022, and what you can do to make sure you’re ready to thrive over the year to come.
Future-proofing the office
Just because so much of 2022 is unknown doesn’t mean that you can’t make preparations that cover off every eventuality. December’s change in working-from-home guidance in some regions for example, on the back of the emergence of the Omicron variant, demonstrated that the ways in which people are allowed to work could still change – and at very short notice.
This is where flexibility within the physical office environment can make such a difference when you need to react quickly. For example, if businesses are once again forced to put capacity limits on employees attending the office each day, they need the means to quickly devise who can work from the office and when, and communicate this information to the workforce.
Additionally, should social distancing rules be reintroduced, then businesses need to be able to close off certain workspaces so that distancing can be maintained, and ensure that meeting rooms can’t be booked for more attendees than their safe capacities allow.
Inspiring employee confidence
Of course, all this assumes that employees will want to come back to the office. There is still a level of wariness among many about going back into relatively close contact with other people, and any emergence of new restrictions will inevitably heighten those concerns. At the same time, remote working has proved popular with a lot of employees, and they will want to retain an ability to do so if they can. For example, recent internal research at Microsoft has found that 71% of its employees and managers want to have the option of working from home at least some of the time.
All this means that employers have lots of work to do to make the office a place that people want to work from. To do that, it’s vital to listen to any concerns or priorities they have, and to make changes with this feedback front-and-center. Whether the issue is productivity or it’s safety, employees will not make the effort to travel to an office they don’t feel comfortable in, especially when they have a ready-made alternative available in working from home.
Making flexibility practical
Whatever happens in 2022, employers will have to ensure that flexibility is enabled at the individual employee level. With so many different viewpoints and motivations between employees of how they want to work, where and when, a ‘set menu’ approach of designating office days and remote days for teams and departments en masse just isn’t going to work.
But there is a way of pleasing everyone all the time. That’s by handing control of defining work schedules over to employees themselves, and letting them decide where and when they work, they can work wherever they feel safe and most productive – and therefore happiest.
Enabling this without introducing needless operational complexity requires the help of technology, such as a workspace booking solution that makes it easy for employees to schedule meetings and book workspaces. This technology can also be used by employees to search the schedules of their co-workers, so they can easily arrange meetings that are in-person, virtual or a combination of the two.