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CTDO Magazine

Office Space Reimagined

Friday, January 14, 2022

Design workspaces that meet employees' needs for socialization, productivity, and collaboration.

Do we need offices? That's one question leaders are pondering. Additionally, many have been wondered how to retain culture if staff are co-located and whether innovation suffers without people being in the same space.

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While office design has not necessarily fallen under talent development executives' purview, it may now that retaining and supporting employees is so critical.

During the JLL webinar How to Develop a Hybrid Workplace Strategy, attendees indicated via a poll that their company's biggest future workforce issues are attracting new talent and supporting staff's health, wellness, and performance.

Indeed, Cisco notes, "As organizations shift to hybrid work, understanding employee needs and expectations is critical to retain top talent and expand the talent pool. Today's employees want more flexibility and more of a voice in where, when, and how they work."

What employees desire varies, and working from home isn't right for everyone or every type of work. So, if the workplace remains an important component of the future of work, what does the new office look like?

Breathing room

Flexible spaces are trending, according to Designing the New Workplace: Insights From 12 Industry Leaders, a report from workspace analytics company Density. "A majority of companies are looking into flexible spaces. What that looks like depends on the company."

During the pandemic, many workers have enjoyed the quietude at home to be more productive, something that some experts say employers can maintain in the office. As Jeffrey Steele writes in Forbes, "While workplace design before Covid stressed the facilitation of collaboration through design, the future will need more emphasis on ‘focus spaces' for the large percentage of the employee base that's thrived in the pandemic's surroundings."

According to JLL, six types of spaces will be needed for the activity-based work that is best performed in an office:

  • Socialization spaces, where employees can meet informally
  • Green spaces, which lend themselves to better concentration and well-being
  • Quiet workspaces, where employees can work alone
  • Collaboration spaces, where teams can work on projects or brainstorm
  • Creative spaces that feature whiteboards and comfortable furniture that are for brainstorming and design collaboration

In practice

To rethink the office space, create a committee, suggests author Matthew Boyle in the Bloomberg article "The Office of the Future Is Competing With Everywhere Else."

"The companies I talk to have a committee for this, either formally or informally," he writes. "It includes legal, HR, facilities and usually the CIO [chief information officer]. Historically, HR departments did not show much of an interest in the physical workplace, but now they have gotten much more involved."

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Density's report points out that "It's best to go into this with an iterative mindset. Let employee behavior dictate design." Additionally, transparency and managing expectations will be key to a successful return.

Look around

Companies can look to employers that have already reimagined their workspaces, such as Salesforce. Terri Maloney, head of the company's employee success team, describes Salesforce's new space in the diginomica article "Redesigning the Office for the Future of Work – How Salesforce and Nexthink Are Planning for the Vaccine Economy."

"Knowing that our people are looking for flexibility, we're making our offices into community hubs to enable connection, camaraderie and coming together in person for collaboration. So the role of the office will be what we do when we're together," she says.

In the same article, Meg Donovan, Nexthink's chief people officer, likewise recommends co-locating teams that work together. "It all goes back to our philosophy as a company, which is about delighting our employees so that they're highly engaged, stay longer, are more productive and profitable."

"Most workplace leaders believe flexibility and data are key to their return-to-work strategy," Density's report sums up. "Know how your employees use your space and adjust to those behaviors in real-time."

Read more from CTDO magazine: Essential talent development content for C-suite leaders.

About the Author

Patty Gaul is a senior writer/editor for the Association for Talent Development (ATD).

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