All over the world, millions of people shifted to working from home in 2020. Fast forward a year and a half or so, and businesses’ views on the merits of flexible working have diverged significantly.
Some organizations want to bring everyone back into office-based work as much as possible. Some others have found remote working to be such a success that they’ve decided to stick with it long-term, either predominantly or entirely. But for many others, the ideal solution is somewhere in the middle: a hybrid model where employees work from a mix of office and home for certain proportions of each week.
Of those three choices, the last two can easily lead to a perception that the office isn’t as important to businesses as it once was. But this perception overlooks the value that retaining a physical workplace can have to employer and employee alike, for a variety of different reasons.
Here, we’ll take a look at five especially important factors:
1. It gives employees flexibility
Ultimately, every employee is different, and will have different preferences and motivations around how they do their work every day. This can make it difficult to come up with a fixed strategy that suits everyone, so the ideal alternative is to enable as much flexibility as possible and give employees an element of control over their working arrangements. Through technology like a workspace booking solution, employees can book the spaces they need as and when they need them, and move from home working to office work and vice versa with fluidity.
2. Working from home isn’t for everyone
Research from Nuffield Health conducted at the height of the pandemic found that, in the United Kingdom, 80% of people working from home said it had a negative effect on their mental health. Add in the unsuitability of some homes for remote working, due to a lack of space or having to share a space with other home workers, and it’s clear that many people are not able or willing to tolerate doing all or most of their work from home. As a result, businesses should look at retaining an office environment for employees to use on a regular basis, or as and when they need it.
3. People need face-to-face contact
As much as all those virtual socials and quiz nights seemed fun to begin with, the hard reality of virtual collaboration and team-building was eventually exposed by the pandemic. The truth is that it really is no substitute for face-to-face contact, where the barrier of video is removed, people can talk to each other more naturally and are able to read each other’s body language. To support this, offices can serve as social hubs just as much as places for work: while it may be a bit of a stretch to install a bowling alley or cocktail bar, informal and comfortable spaces can be used to help strengthen bonds and build stronger team cultures.
4. In-person collaboration is best
Connected to the previous point, work-related collaboration is also far more free-flowing and organic when conducted in person, instead of through the stilted way in which video-based meetings often run. Offices, therefore, can serve a vital purpose in bringing employees together for meetings, and a workspace management solution can be used to secure a relevant meeting space and ensure everyone can attend. In the event that some attendees have to connect through video, the same solution can be used to book a meeting room that has collaboration equipment installed, or ensure that the equipment is made available for the meeting in question.
5. It’s a focal point for visitors
The benefits of meeting in person aren’t restricted to the workforce, either. Clients, customers and other external visitors may also find it useful to visit an office and discuss their needs face-to-face. However businesses choose to operate in the future, many visitors will still expect them to have a focal point where meetings take place and that act as an emblem of the company’s success. Portraying that image may well be far more difficult to achieve for businesses that are only operating virtually.