The way we work is changing. Offices that were once filled with cubicles and bustling employees sat empty for close to a year and a half. Staff who could, worked from home while businesses adapted and contemplated next steps. Looking to the future, 65% of employers plan to adopt a hybrid office schedule, but almost 20% of employers don’t have clear plans. What is clear, however, is the importance of relationships for retaining top talent and bolstering team morale. As more workplaces turn to hybrid schedules, where will those relationships form? Our team sat down with industry experts to discuss the future of work, from hybrid location models and physical office footprints to company culture and the role that food plays throughout it all. To learn more and to listen to our panelists firsthand, watch the How to Make the Workplace Feel Like Home Webinar.
The Future of Work
Is Hybrid Here to Stay?
Hybrid work, a combination of working from home as well as in the office, is here to stay for the foreseeable future. According to Harvard Business Review, 64.5% of employers anticipate their staff will work from home in some capacity. While health and safety measures accelerated the work-from-home trend, it continues out of convenience, and for some, necessity, with the reasons for pursuing remote work as diverse as the staff members themselves.
“As an employer, you extend benefits to all of your staff. Employees are individualized; each employee will want what’s most important to them based on their life. Your own wants and needs vary depending on your demographic.” -Shannon Kraus, Design Architect, Author and Speaker
The office and benefits within mean different things to different people. Where one person may prioritize the food and drinks they have access to while in the office, another may prioritize the ability to work from home to be near their children. So how can employers move forward reopening offices while also accommodating these updated needs and expectations? Let’s start by considering how the physical office landscape is changing.
Reopening the Workplace
There is no longer a “one size fits all” office space. Instead, office suites can be customized to accommodate specific needs, often resulting in a smaller footprint more catered to “why” teams come together. While office spaces previously focused on how individuals could best accomplish their own work, the focus is shifting to how teams and people come together. Those who implement a hybrid work strategy use time spent in the office for collaborative work. Getting ready to downsize? 78% of businesses have reduced, or plan to reduce their office footprint. In addition, 25% of hybrid offices have already decreased their office footprint.
Making the Workplace Feel More Inviting
In addition to the spaces themselves, furnishings are also evolving, from stand up desks and mobile workstations, to built out decks where employees can work in open air. Comfort, choice, and customizations catered to the individual help employees feel valued.
How to Retain Top Talent
I’ll All About Relationships
How can you reduce turnover and keep top talent? It’s all about relationships. When employees trust leadership and can count on regular time with their mentor, they are less likely to pursue other opportunities. While salaries and job descriptions are searchable, relationships are harder to shop around. The challenge is prioritizing relationships with hybrid and remote staff. The office is no longer just individuals sitting at desks; it is a hub for relationship building.
In addition to relationships with leadership, relationships between staff have value. People often underestimate the benefits of those serendipitous interactions in the hallway and the positive effects they have on mental health and well being. Burn out, which is a threat to turn over, can be alleviated through relationships and collaboration.
Offering food, business development opportunities, and other social amenities are just some of the ways to get your staff interested in coming back into the office. Still unsure what your staff wants or how to get them excited about returning to the office? “Organizations should not be afraid to ask people what’s important to them,” says Fern Hernberg, HR Expert and Entrepreneur.
The Function of Food in the Workplace
The social nature of food crosses diverse perspectives and backgrounds. We celebrate with a literal breaking of bread as a social contract. While the cubical may be at risk of extinction, common spaces like conference rooms will remain a place to eat, collaborate, and pursue professional development. Food can be used to celebrate, evoke comfort, and allow employees to grow relationships that benefit both them and the business. In addition, beverages such as water, coffee, and kombucha on tap can help leadership build on their relationships with staff and promote loyalty.
Marc Payero, Executive Chef at National Football League Headquarters, explains how including meals as part of their in-office perks encourages staff to come to the office, enjoy the space and share time together. “Sometimes people want to get away from their desk and come into the cafe for the food or to connect with each other. We make it so they can find anything they want at any point in the day, making the office a place they want to be.”
This is a pivotal moment for the future of work. Whether your business adopts a hybrid work model, welcomes staff back full time, or something in between, find creative ways to make the office more inviting, be flexible and be understanding of your employees’ needs.