Woods Bagot’s Workplace Interiors Global Leader has been helping companies adjust to the post-Covid landscape
What’s Next? Employees are questioning the need to ever return to the workplace. Working from home highlighted some of its burdens: Stressful commutes. Open plan offices that made it difficult to focus making us wonder why we’re in the office if we can’t focus or enjoy the company of my colleagues. Balancing workplace and personal commitments for households with children.
Remote working also introduced flexibility. Cut out that three-hour commute and you go for a run; drop the kids off at school, help them with their homework, and be available for family dinners. With greater control of our own time, it suddenly felt possible to do more.
Now as employers are facing a dilemma whose terms are constantly shifting as the virus mutates. Some organisations have opted for a return to pre-Covid working regimes, others are welcoming hybrid as the new norm, and others have decided to allow employees to work from home indefinitely. Below are four workplace insights:
1. Supporting local urban economies
Even in the early months of Covid, it became clear that the businesses that cater towards urban employees severely suffered the impacts of remote working. Discussions began between local governments, commercial property owners, and their tenants acknowledged the fact that our cities would only begin to recover with the return of the workforce.
2. Orchestrating the emerging hybrid workplace
The responsibility sits with leadership to effectively orchestrate the hybrid workplace. In the coming months, as the emerging culture of hybrid works itself out, leadership will need to be ready to adjust its expectations of staff, be prepared to clearly communicate workplace norms, and in time, assess what this means for the design of the workplace.
And perhaps this could be one of those rare occasions where it makes sense to hold off on immediate physical changes in order to fully absorb unfolding employee preferences. In this evolving future, the organisations which figure out how best to implement hybrid work will generate the best outcomes.
3. Culture matters
At the Hayesbury for Goodman Group in Sydney, we emphasised culture and social connection. We adapted a 30,000 sq ft historic space with lots of character, created more open, informal spaces to inspire collaboration, brought nature indoors to instil a sense of ease, and reduced densification so that individuals can feel safe back at work. Sustainability, safety, and wellness have been a key focus and led to spaces which foster an environment for employees to grow, be inspired and engaged.
4. Making wellbeing a central feature of the employee experience
The pandemic has laid bare just how tenuous some of our social and support systems are. Many staff have faced traumas and pressures related to personal and economic losses. As employers look to entice employees back into the office, they will need to offer far more mental and physical health support and make wellbeing a central aspect of the workplace.
A great example is 80 Ann Street in Brisbane, Suncorp’s new headquarters and a carbon neutral building equipped with solar power roofs to generate its own power. The building’s core is located on the side allowing for more lighting, proven to enhance wellbeing. And with the post-Covid acceptance of hybrid as the new norm, Suncorp has reduced the amount of office space, and increased the amount of collaboration space to support positive interactions.
Illustration courtesy of Woods Bagot