We’ve already come a long way from the non-stop Zoom calls and shirt-and-pyjama bottom outfits that defined the pandemic era. However, one of the best outcomes of this peculiar time has been the change in workplace culture and our shifting attitude to flexible working patterns. We’ve learned that employees are just as capable of working independently from the comfort of their own homes, and that collaborative work is possible even when team members are located in different buildings, cities or even countries.
That said, “Zoom fatigue” and the desire to reconnect with colleagues in person have lured many of us back into the office. It’s clear there are benefits to a blended approach, and that people are happiest and most productive when they can choose a workplace that works best around their personal schedules, the kind of work they do and their noise level and environment preferences.
Productivity versus wellbeing
Despite the end of the compulsory working from home era not being too distant a memory, many companies have already fully embraced a new, hybrid way of working. Employees enjoy a greater degree of flexibility around working arrangements, which has resulted in a happier and more productive workforce. According to data from CIPD, 41% of employers in December 2021 said they had noticed an increase in productivity since introducing a hybrid model.
While increased productivity is an important outcome, there are other factors that also need to be considered. When working from home, many people struggled to maintain a healthy work/life balance. An unequivocal boundary between the working day and personal time is important for wellbeing. If companies are concerned about long-term sustainable workforces, this is something they need to take into consideration.
This flexibility is precisely what enables parents, caregivers and part-time workers to be part of the workforce. Without this approach, companies would lose out on a significant portion of the talent pool. This is particularly important at a time when the ongoing skills shortage continues to hinder recruitment. Encouraging employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance will boost wellbeing levels as well as staff retention and recruitment efforts.
Keep up with employee needs, or get ready to lose talent
The expectations of the workforce have changed. Companies that haven’t already modernised their workplace policies may soon see their best staff out the door and joining one that gives them greater flexibility. And those that choose to stay may end up not performing at their best. As with anything, there are always anomalies. But for the most part, if businesses long to keep up with the competition, they need to make sure they keep up with the times.
To flex or not to flex
Many companies are reluctant to go fully remote, and for a good reason. A collaborative workspace where colleagues can mix, bounce ideas off each other and learn is invaluable. If hybrid work offers the best of both worlds, this begs the question: why are some companies still not taking this approach? The difficulty for many employers is the perceived tug between offering greater flexibility and maintaining a sense of unison and collaboration in a physical office. But the truth is, these two can exist concurrently – it’s a shift in mindset that is needed, and something the pandemic era should have already taught us.
It’s no surprise then that many companies are turning away from the permanent office approach. Understandably, paying for a traditional office space that is only partially occupied and that ties the tenant to a long-term contract ranging between 5-10 years may also not seem like a worthwhile investment. There has been a strong shift recently towards flexible office space to suit any given company’s bespoke needs – be it a small private office, a shared office or access to an open-plan co-working area, all at minimum commitment. In fact, according to a report from JLL, 30% of office space is predicted to be flexible by 2030. Rather than paying by the square metre (or square foot), businesses stand to benefit from a flexible, inspiring and collaborative space that often offers extra benefits and perks, as well as an experience. And let’s not forget that the world of work is continuing to change – whether it’s four-day work weeks or hybrid work. Those that embrace this new mindset are best suited to meet the expectations of the evolving workforce.
About the author: Dan Zakai is the CEO & Co-Founder of Mindspace, a boutique flex space provider, that serves companies of various sizes, including blue-chip companies, in over 40 locations, 20 cities and 7 countries across EMEA and the US.