Everyone has likely heard of the trend to consolidate office space by implementing various strategies such as desk sharing and free-address employee workstations for hybrid work schedules or smaller touchdown stations for remote workers. Many people have likely even experienced some of these strategies in their own space or in other office environments they have encountered. Some companies will be able to provide data that support these strategies based on tangible outcomes, such as reduced overall expenses or higher staff satisfaction. However, no one can be certain whether or not these are long-term strategies, and whether they will create the need for less overall square footage for office space in the future.
The pandemic served as the catalyst to rethink how and where work is completed, creating some positive outcomes and some that were less than ideal. However, most companies are still doing what they do with the same staff, albeit with fewer overall employees since many of them have exited the workforce.
Our reliance on technology to support the work has also accelerated, particularly in communication and collaboration with one another via Teams, Zoom, and other virtual platforms. These platforms continue to improve our ability to communicate and share information with one another, regardless of location, even though, as we have all experienced, group interaction is quite different from in-person interaction.
This increased use of technology has allowed remote and hybrid work to be successful for a variety of workforce tasks. Although people have been migrating back to the office, remote and hybrid work are still prevalent for much of the professional workforce; this may be forever.
Equally important is having the staff you want doing the work you want in an environment that elevates their potential to be successful and professionally fulfilled.
Since one of the most significant annual expenses is the purchase or lease, maintenance, and operation of the real estate where people work, managing this expense is extremely important. And, equally important is having the staff you want doing the work you want in an environment that elevates their potential to be successful and professionally fulfilled. Work flexibility – and the expectation that current and potential employees will be more focused on their work experiences than those of past generations – have developed a fierce war for talent. A large part of that talent pool has more choice today than ever before in where and how to use their skillset and expertise. Therefore, what they need and want are two separate solutions that should be evaluated and addressed.
Important questions to consider
If remote and hybrid work are evolving next practices because they are what many people want (and, in some cases, what is needed to meet the job-market demands today and in the future), a focus should be on developing ideal remote and hybrid workplace strategies.
While focused work, in most cases, can be accomplished remotely and virtually, team collaboration and innovation can suffer when teams are not together physically. While the opportunity to collaborate with others in any and various locations is ideal, especially given the resources needed to have everyone present in one location, companies would be wise to evaluate the outcomes of virtual vs. in-person collaboration based on the desired collaboration tools and methodology used.
As a result of that inquiry, will a person’s individual workspace in the office be reduced in favor of more significant collaboration spaces in the future? Will there be other types of interaction or engagement that staff might require with their colleagues that might impact the need for space in the future? Will staff need greater social interaction, team-building, or wellness opportunities if they work from home more than in the office? Some might question whether these spaces will simply replace individual workstations or office space, whereby the office is mostly a “we” space in the future.
Although there is no single answer to these questions, or a single solution that can be prescribed for all, one of the critical components of any office environment now and in the future will be its ability to adapt to new and changing needs. A new workplace layout will establish expectations for how work is completed in the future. And there are competing values related to how place supports the agile needs for teamwork where focus, collaboration, and innovation create work processes that require individual initiative and continuous adaptability. Place must respond intuitively to the people involved and the processes occurring, as well as what the expectations are for the outcome of these work experiences. Therefore, every solution must be aligned with each organization’s culture, vision, and desired outcomes, including revenue, which supports the core mission or purpose.
Important criteria to hold
Many companies have understood this for some time. Walt Disney, Starbucks, Apple, and Google, for example, have created intentionally designed experiences that are aligned with the expectations of all who engage with those experiences. The physical environment is critical to the success of these companies, which are all very different, with significant differences in their overall footprint and design.
Giving your organization’s purpose the space to thrive is essential, and the first question to ask – without contemplating how to do it or what to do – is, “Why should I consider consolidation?” If the answer to that question supports your vision for the future, enhances your culture, produces the desired outcomes, AND aligns with your core mission, then proceed. Do so exploring what to do and how to do it to create intentionally designed work experiences that align your environment with your workforce and their work processes. If this can’t be done, go no further.
Article originally published by Cornet Global, Consolidating work environments is crucial to an organization’s success.
Carolyn Glime, AIA, NCARB
Senior Planner + Architect
The Source Cornet Global