Will this WFH Experiment Shape the Future of our Workplace?

Will this WFH Experiment Shape The Future of our Workplace?

The new work environment is being determined now

The future of work looks a lot different now than a few weeks ago. We’re practicing social distancing and employees everywhere have been forced into remote work. The current global events are creating uncertainty in our lives — socially, health-wise, and professionally as well.

As COVID-19 forces a large-scale work from home (WFH) experiment, we can’t help but wonder if the disease will propel us into a lifestyle that would have emerged 20 years into the future when the distinctions between work, home, and in-between all dissolve.

Trends in modern society: Bring work home and vice versa

As almost anyone with a successful career will tell you, sometimes you need to bring work home. Be it evening emails or weekend work, this regular practice spurred dedicated office spaces in the home long ago. 

More and more, the lines between work and home have become ambiguous.

We’ve also seen the trend the other way: work has come to resemble home more than ever before. Employees have asked for spaces to relax and decompress. Employers continually respond and provide meditation rooms, designated nap spaces, and quiet spaces to regroup and disconnect from work.

Current trend: WFH

And today’s most popular trend among the next generation of the workforce? Work-life balance, flexibility and wellness. For many, this balance is best achieved through a work from home arrangement, aka telecommuting or remote work.

Even before COVID-19 made remote workers out of previously on-site office professionals, the calls for more remote opportunities or flexible WFH arrangements are on the rise. Ninety-nine percent of employees want the opportunity to WFH, at least part-time. 

It’s not hard to see why — collaboration tools like Slack, Zoom, and Trello create agile work environments along with the importance of work systems such as BIM (Building Information Modeling), 3D printing and AR (Augmented Reality) in the AEC industry.

Remote teams report higher productivity and increased loyalty to their companies. With WFH arrangements, individuals can avoid the rising rent and cost of living in metro areas while still having a great job. And perhaps most importantly — remote workers have the flexibility to manage their schedules for greater work-life balance and wellness. 

Some industries have answered the need for remote work with openness, while others have not. It’s no surprise that tech composes the largest percentage of remote workers according to Global Workplace Analytics.

Source: Global Workplace Analytics.com

The 44% of global organizations that still don’t allow for remote work cite concerns about:

  • Loss of employee productivity
  • Issues with miscommunication
  • Inability to effectively manage teams
  • Employee isolation

But in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, formerly remote-reticent employers haven’t had much of a choice. The stay at home order mandate has forced a massive social-professional experiment and pulled much of the modern world into it.

Not everyone can work remotely —  the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports 29% of percent of the US workforce is capable of working remotely. And these professionals are currently telecommuting whether or not the infrastructure to make remote work successful was in place before the crisis.

Despite our lack of preparedness in going remote overnight, the results are bound to reveal something about our future home and workspaces. What happens when the lines between home and work are increasingly blurred?

The Workplace of the Future: At Home?

We don’t know how long social distancing will last. There’s a lot left to be determined. But one thing that seems clear is that the remote work experiment we’ve been forced into is permanently shifting the world of work. The future is almost guaranteed to exist more fluidly between work and home. 

What will this look like? What does bringing modern work into the home mean?

  • Broadband access speeds or 5G wifi will be ubiquitous
  • A dedicated office space as part of the basics of a residential home, alongside a kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom
  • Potential for companies to invest in shared living spaces for employees to live and work from in lieu of offices

Here to Stay: Resilience and Remote Work

Will these scenarios bring people including families closer together? Cut down on the environmental impact that are so closely tied to the American commute? Will we be able to remain focused, productive, and collaborative in physical and mental spaces that lack clear delineation between work and home? 

With questions swirling in from every direction, one thing is for certain: the future will look different, and the current COVID-19 pandemic will emerge as the shaping force of this landscape. Yet this great sense of shared humanity we’re all currently experiencing will too. Our deepest hope is for a bright and unified future — at work and at home —  on the other side of it all.

How has your transition to remote work been? Do you miss the water cooler chatter, or are you finding respite in focused time along? Share your experiences below!


6 tips to transition employees to an open office layout

Six Tips to Transition Employees to an Open Office Layout

What do the offices of companies like Facebook, IBM, GE and Apple all have in common?

If you guessed that they all incorporate open office space into their design, you’d be correct. Open office layouts continue to gain popularity as many companies make the switch to encourage a more collaborative work environment.

Unsurprisingly, most of our recent projects involve at least some open concept space, although they aren’t without controversy. Many employees have complained that open workspaces have a negative effect on their productivity, make it easier for germs to spread, and dampen creativity.

I didn’t fully understand what it was like to work in an open office until I tried it for myself. Although it was difficult at first to maintain focus amid co-workers discussing their lunch plans or recent weekend trips, I eventually learned to drown out the noise and get my work done.

This foray into open seating helped me develop a deeper sense of empathy for clients making the difficult decision to move their employees out of cubicles or separate offices into one open plan layout. Along the way, I developed this list of five key actions you need to take in order to keep your employees happy and productive during this type of transition.

The Bridge Group LLC, San Francisco, commercial project construction management, real estate services, facilities consulting, owner’s representativeProvide phone rooms and meetings areas.  For distraction-free work and the need for private conversations, consider setting up a few hotel offices. Employees can reserve these offices for a couple of hours at a time and use them for private calls, confidential discussions, and projects that call for deep focus.

Give employees space for their personal items.  Think of the desk as your employee’s home away from home. By giving them license to personalize their space, you empower them to feel like they truly own the space. If you’re considering a hotel-seating model, which involves unassigned desks, make sure your employees have lockers where they can store personal items.

Consider acoustics. Don’t limit yourself by focusing only on how a space looks. Think about how sound travels through an area and how different personality types react to various sound environments.

Offer spaces for fun.  This includes incorporating areas where employees can take their work if they need to get away, including high-top tables or casual sitting areas. I’ve even seen clients provide hammocks, lego-building areas, or yoga space so employees can take a mini-retreat during the day.

Sell the positive. Make sure you focus on the upsides of the new space instead of the potential downsides. For instance, sitting alongside your manager may make them easier to approach with new ideas. There’s also more energy in the workplace when people aren’t hidden away in enclosed offices or cubicles.

Give them time to get used to it. No matter what your personality type, it still takes time to adjust to a new way of working. Try offering headphones to people who are having a difficult time tuning out the noise. After a while, you may notice they don’t need them.

Change of any kind can be difficult for employees to handle. The most important key to a smooth transition is listening to your employee’s concerns — don’t downplay them, and don’t imply that things will be the same as they were before. Rather, empathize with their worries and then consult with your designer or facility manager and see if there are any practical steps you can take to address them.

Is your company undergoing tenant improvements or moving? Can’t decide if an open office concept is suitable for your employees?

Contact us for a complimentary consultation.