Adjusting to a more flexible working model in the longer term has consequences that reach far more widely than you might think. So far, most of the focus has been on employees, and how the temporary home-working set-ups they have used during the pandemic can evolve into more permanent arrangements to work remotely on certain days each week.
However, businesses also have to take into account the impact that flexible working will have on their office spaces. In many organizations, no longer will employees be working from the office every single day, and so the traditional model of giving every employee a designated desk to work from will be inefficient and largely redundant.
Because of this, it’s time to consider how workplaces can be reshaped to better serve new demands, and this applies in the shorter term to post-COVID workplaces just as much as it will beyond the pandemic long-term. The best place to start is by trying to answer these four questions:
What do your employees want?
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that employees want and expect a greater voice in how a business operates, and in terms of how, where and when they do their work. If the flexible working arrangement and workspace layout put in place doesn’t suit them, they’ll feel undervalued, demotivated and ultimately will be more likely to go elsewhere.
That’s why it’s important to engage them at every stage of the process of developing a workplace that’s fit for a flexible working model. Find out what they would like to see in the office, keep them updated with progress, and give them the opportunity to get up to speed with whatever technology you use to manage and coordinate the booking of different workspaces.
Where can you find efficiencies?
With fewer people working in the office on any given day, the amount of office space you need is reduced – or at least it can be once you move towards shared workstations instead of designated ones. This gives you an opportunity to save money by downsizing your premises, or alternatively, to do more with the space at your disposal.
A lower demand for desk spaces means that you can experiment with other types of space instead. Meeting rooms, private work booths and breakout zones are just some of the possibilities to help employees get more from their days when they’re in the office, and to make it easier for them to come together and collaborate.
How can you ensure everyone can access the spaces they need?
Of course, under a shared workspace model, there will most likely be fewer desks in the office than there are employees able to use them. That makes it critical that the booking and scheduling of these workstations is as easy, fair and transparent as possible. If this doesn’t happen, employees will quickly become stressed and dissatisfied when they can’t get the workspace they need, or when they travel all the way into the office to find someone else is in ‘their’ space.
The most efficient and hassle-free way to achieve this is through a workspace booking solution, from which employees can search for any kind of workspace, check its availability and book it for the times required. This maximizes the productivity that employees can get out of their days in the office, makes sure that everyone gets equal and fair access to workspaces, and gives employees confidence that the space they’ve booked will be ready and waiting for them when they arrive.
How can you react to changes in demand?
It’s important to remember that flexible working is not a fixed concept, and will evolve over the coming months and years. It will also evolve in different ways in different businesses, and so the more agile, bookable workspace put in place today may not suit the needs of the workforce one, three or five years down the line. Because of this, it’s vital that you can easily react and make changes.
A good workspace booking system will not only allow you to apply any changes in layout you make, but it will also analyse usage data from your existing workspaces so you can spot inefficiencies or peaks in demand. Equipped with this information, you can make informed decisions about reshaping workspace layouts over time to meet new demands.
So, as you work out exactly which functions your office spaces will fulfil in the years to come, don’t forget to take into account the workspaces within them, and how your employees will use them. It’ll make a bigger difference than you might think.