The Future Office: Rethinking the workspace

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America is going back to work.

But for those of us fortunate enough to have kept our jobs during this pandemic and the ensuing recession, we never really stopped working. We stopped going to the office, but we kept going.

But with the continued rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, we’re preparing ourselves for another change—the return to our office spaces.

The past year has been a moment of reckoning for offices and businesses. It has forced us to reflect on how we use our office spaces. Many of us have benefited–even thrived–from the work-from-home setup, making it hard for some to transition back to the drudgery of the commute and the idea of putting on pants.

That’s why certain workplaces are going to keep the remote work setup for the time being. But as we adjust to another, changed reality, we should be asking the more important question—does the workplace need to change for good?

Work from home? More like work from anywhere.

The past year has proven that for many, if not most, workplaces, a remote office setup is more than possible. The physical distancing guidelines have forced employers to admit that we don’t need our employees in the office five days a week.

This realization is long overdue. The five-day workweek is a century old, a product of a world that is long gone, much like the pre-COVID world that we’ll never see again. Given this, shouldn’t we adjust to the changes that we are all facing rather than going back to the way things were?

We’ve already taken the first step this past year—allowing ourselves to adjust to virtual meetings and digital correspondence. In a sense, we’ve already done the difficult part, which is to convince ourselves that this is a viable work option and to test it out. It’s time that we embrace this change and the numerous benefits that it provides.

Allowing your staff to work remotely can boost morale, motivation, and productivity. With the rise of digital nomadism, younger employees may find that vacation and work can happen simultaneously from any corner of the world.

No two workers are alike, so why do they all have the same desk?

Workstation in office

There are industries, of course, for which work cannot be brought home, like industries that require special equipment or handle highly sensitive information. These are the exceptions, but even these workspaces would benefit from some rethinking and revolutionizing.

Take the office setup, for example. Much has been said about the benefits and very real disadvantages of an open office setup. It certainly fosters communication and interaction but is very detrimental to focus and concentration. So while it benefits others, it can be a struggle for some.

What we see here is the inability of the workspace to account for the individuality of each worker. For introverts, for example, too many stimuli can overwhelm them and hinder their performance. Creative types, meanwhile, may find the idea of a cubicle constricting and dehumanizing. The ideal workspace, then, should be something that can accommodate different personality types and working styles.

Where do we go from here?

The great thing about where we are now is that being at a turning point, we can start instituting changes today.

It doesn’t need to be a massive overhaul. You could start with small adjustments, like letting your staff work from anywhere on certain days of the week. You could offer more flexible working hours so that they could avoid the commuting rush hours.

You could also shake up the design of your existing office space. Maybe you could create tiny nooks where your staff can hide out to concentrate and go on focused sprints. You could also create an outdoor office patio with plants and some lounge chairs. We know that work can be highly confidential, so you could put up some seclusion fencing to contain the space.

Most importantly, we should exert more effort in accommodating the needs of our staff members with disabilities or those with special circumstances, like single parents. Whether it be a physical or mental impairment or the need for daycare services, the workplace should be a place where everyone can achieve their utmost potential.

Modernizing the workplace and adapting to cultural and economic changes isn’t just an act of kindness; it’s actually good business. It helps your current employees thrive while attracting exceptional talent. In eliminating the barriers to great work, you’re not just bringing your business up, but you’re also bringing it forward.

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