Examine the “when” and “why” of going to the office

Twelve months ago, there was still a sense that a return to pre-pandemic office life as we knew it was still a possibility. A year later, the much-heralded return to the office has been continually delayed by further lockdowns and work-from-home mandates.

However, there is now a sense of cautious optimism that in 2022, as restrictions continue to lift, we will begin to experience what post-pandemic working life really looks like.

The past two years have been transformational in how we think about the work in progress. Remote working has proven to have significant benefits in terms of flexibility for employees.

It has also given employers the ability to access new talent pools that are not geographically tied to a commutable distance to specific offices. A significant minority of organizations have seen so much value in remote working that they are abandoning their physical offices and planning to make the remote move a permanent move.

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However, remote work has also brought significant downsides in terms of employee isolation and difficulties in translating some effective office work methods into remote equivalents. It’s no surprise, then, that many organizations want to restore the energy and serendipity that comes from working face-to-face.

While some have forced a full return to the office, many others are exploring the concept of hybrid working. This is starting to pose some interesting challenges in terms of work practices and workplace design.

Employees want a clear purpose for coming into the office on a particular day, rather than commuting just to sit on team calls they might be making at home. It is clear that the balance between the “when” and the “why” of entering the office is an essential element of this new organization of work.

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The design of the physical office space is closely related to this. Some companies are already taking advantage of this to rethink their spaces for collaboration, community, well-being and concentration.

The challenge here is that the pandemic has freed people up to work in personal ways, making designing the collective office of the future a real challenge. There is a real danger that trying to please everyone leads to unproductive spaces that serve no one.

The key to success for hybrid companies will be flexibility, listening and experimentation. There is no new normal one-size-fits-all; there are only individual preferences and choices. In today’s tight talent markets, employees call the shots.

Matt Alder, host of The Recruiting Future podcast, is a guest writer on behalf of s1jobs.

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