As business owners, we’re all struggling to figure out how to incent people to return to the office once as it is safe to do so. Having everyone back under one roof has so many positive benefits for individual development, firm culture and employee recruitment/retention that corporate leaders across the globe are all burning a lot of brain cells trying to figure out how to make the office a more compelling place to be.
The problem is that the remote work behaviors that started out as a novelty 18 months ago have now developed into ingrained habits and routines. For some younger workers, remote work is the only world they’ve ever known. Home working has allowed us to spend more time with our kids and pets and given us more freedom during the day to work out, take a break or just spend an hour or so on a favorite hobby. A lot of people don’t want to give up the newfound benefits of home working so perhaps the best way to get them back to the office is to make it feel more like home.
The primary reasons people will want to return to the office will always be the social interaction, the mentorship/career development, and the desire to collaborate with our co-workers. However, there are some things that companies can do to make the office environment more appealing.
Different Types of Space
Pre-pandemic, almost every office space design was premised on one overriding assumption: that people would spend most of their time at a particular seat and desk. We were tethered to an office or workstation because that’s where our computer and papers were. The consequence of this is that we isolated ourselves and interacted with only a small fraction of our coworkers on any given day.
The pandemic changed things. For the past 18 months we have moved about the house from the kitchen counter to the dining room table, to the family room sofa, to the basement or the bedroom as we sought out quiet spaces for Zoom calls or heads down work. As a result of this nomad existence, we have become less dependent on paper and more comfortable using laptop computers. Many of us also learned that we can in fact function without our administrative assistant sitting right outside our office. In sum, we have become more mobile, and we have learned to enjoy changes in scenery throughout our work day.
The workplace of the future will look and feel a lot more like home. It will be less formal and much more flexible, and this will result in more social interactions, more collaboration and a more relaxed, less isolated work experience. We will have fewer fixed offices and more soft seating and collaborative areas that resemble our family rooms and kitchens where people tend to congregate. Office designs will reflect, and take advantage of, the newfound mobility of workers.
Let’s face it, our kids have gotten used to seeing a lot more of us and we’ve gotten used to seeing them a lot more (perhaps too much). The thought of going back to a world where we only see our toddlers at the beginning of the day and then at the end of the day is no longer acceptable for many. On-site daycare will help solve this problem.
As many landlords struggle to fill mounting vacancies and distinguish their office product from the competition, they should consider incorporating daycare options as a tenant amenity. On-site daycare would provide the best of all worlds to parents who want to get their work done but also want to be able to see their kids throughout the day.
If there is one silver lining in the pandemic, it is the fact that animal shelters across the country emptied out. It seems like everyone adopted a dog or cat in the past 18 months. Well guess what? Those pets have become awfully attached to us and we’ve gotten used to seeing them whenever we want. Pets and home are synonymous. Why not bring the pets to work and make the office feel like home?
Recent worker satisfaction surveys show that one of the major reasons people don’t want to return to the office is that they don’t want to leave their pets. If we want to get people back to the office, why not allow them to bring their new best friends with them?
The pandemic forced our homes to become our offices, and, along the way, we learned to appreciate many of the benefits of this arrangement. As companies struggle to find ways to lure their employees back to the office in a post-pandemic world, it may be time to take stock of the competition — the home — and emulate what it has to offer.
We have all been working from the home; it’s time for the home to come to work.
Author: Glenn Blumenfeld | Principal at Tactix Real Estate Advisors