As the business world begins to settle back into the rhythm of work in a (mostly) post-pandemic era (recent COVID-19 resurgence notwithstanding), we're hearing from more and more clients looking to reposition their real estate requirements, whether that is through substantial office relocations or internal reconfigurations.
What is clear to us is that our clients are looking in more detail at how space is used, why their employees come 'into the office' as opposed to working from home; and the resulting changes are not simply a 'space saving' move from cellular to open plan, rather a change to promote collaboration, creativity, and for employees to connect.
The 'spoke and hub' concept was an interesting one, but I do wonder whether the pandemic has brought about more systemic change even faster - rather than employees wanting to regularly connect in smaller more localised hubs (avoiding painful commutes and lost time), they are willing to go to a centralised HQ provided (a) they do not have to make the journey if it is not necessary, and (b) their office space works for them.
Out goes cellular offices with 'break out' zones (complete with table tennis table) - in comes completely free-flowing collaborative space - bright, well-ventilated, comfortable desk space for all, but with a focus on different options to enable collaboration and creativity, from open 'coffee shop' style tables, larger desks/zones for teams to work together, through to sound-isolated booths for calls and meetings (with technology to support hybrid meetings for those colleagues working from elsewhere).
By the way, I have previously looked at some tips for approaching the procurement of reconfiguration / fit out contracts - see my blog entry here.
I do think it's important not to design out the 'fun' of being in the office - we know from our own experience that many of our employees' 'why' or purpose (what makes them come into the office at all) is to connect and form relationships. It's just that rather than working hard at a desk and 'breaking out' for short breaks over ping-pong, employees want their 'working time' itself to be more fulfilling and rewarding.
We also know employees demand that their employers focus on sustainability and net zero goals - this cannot be over-emphasised, but technology can be deployed intelligently to help meet those goals.
And whilst I have focused here on the employees themselves, it goes without saying that a well-connected and collaborative workforce will be far better placed to service Clients' needs than siloed, disparate fiefdoms.
It is not over-stating things to say that the right office set up can facilitate all of that. A happier, more fulfilled workforce is a more productive one, one that Clients will want to instruct - and one which may not be quite as susceptible to the Great Resignation.
As a result, we think about work a little differently: We believe the office is not merely a passive receptacle for modes of work or existing power structures, but an active force of its own, one with the capacity to accelerate change and to support a totally new kind of work and workforce.