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30 November 2020 | by Ann Clarke
Future flexible is the term we’ve coined to articulate what office design will need to offer in order to meet the changing behaviours of employees and the shifting demands of employers. There has been a lot of focus on making short term changes to offices in direct response to Covid-19 but if we limit our thinking to an immediate post Covid-19 solution, only to have to unpick it in 18 months’ time, then we miss the real opportunity to reinvent and future proof the workspace.
Covid-19 has provided the ultimate agent of change and mobilised thousands of businesses into more agile organisations. The proliferation of mobile technology over the last decade has laid the foundations for this and enabled employers to give people greater autonomy, choice and control about how when and where they work. As we’ve seen this year it has also allowed organisations to build greater flexibility and resilience into their operations.
All of this has led to a universal acceptance that as more work tasks can be done remotely, the office really doesn’t need to house all staff every day. There’s a clear opportunity to approach the workplace and office interiors differently and it’s a process that starts with thinking about three core areas:
Lessons and experiences – what have you learned?
This year has tested our collective aptitude for change and has made us learn more about the nuts and bolts of how businesses operate and what they need to survive.
Planning for the future starts with reflecting on how the pandemic experience has affected your business and your people. It will have highlighted new ways of doing things, bad habits, clear opportunities and which processes need a complete overhaul for a digital age. These observations have tremendous value.
Start by identifying the challenges you’ve faced, acknowledging your shortcomings and interrogating the positives and negatives of your team’s agile experiences. This will help you to develop a blueprint for the future that sets out what you need to thrive not just survive.
Consider where you’re going and your idea of FutureFlexible
It’s almost certain that your business will be operating very differently now to the start of the year. You may even be looking at turning some of your short term fixes into longer term solutions. Consequently it’s important to consider how your business will keep evolving and how your people and environment will respond to that.
Ask yourself whether greater flexibility is about accommodating different working styles, enabling team members in multiple locations to work together with ease or having a office that can actively flex and adapt as your needs do the same? The experiences of the last few months have shown that agility is a necessity, but the future direction of your business will govern how much agility is right for you.
Destination and brand
Covid-19 has liberated us from ‘everyday’ working in the office and presented an opportunity for the office to become a destination – rather than just somewhere to house desks.
Successful destination offices will support flexible working through a blended mix of settings, promote greater health and wellbeing among users and perhaps most importantly of all – will be somewhere people genuinely want and choose to be because they can’t get the experience elsewhere.
Part of this will centre on offering greater brand and employee experiences – after all working from a spare bedroom at home doesn’t provide the same opportunity to feel part of something or to engage with the company’s values. The other part of this picture is about the human component and our need to collaborate and socialise. Destination offices will bring these elements to life and become places for team work, project meetings, knowledge sharing, mentoring and more. They’ll be home to lots of different activity-based settings and they’ll put significant focus on people and community.
To plan for the future it’s important to think about the brand and the experience you want employees to have. Ask yourself what would your destination office look like? How it could be used to unlock greater value from your people and what would make them choose to use the space? What do your employees want and need? How could you use your bricks and mortar to stand out in your market?
Seizing on this new opportunity can seem overwhelming. There are so many things to consider and all set against a backdrop of constant change and uncertainty. This is where our workplace consultants and office interior designers come into their own. We can help you anticipate your needs and translate your processes, practices and aspirations into an office interior design solution that works for you today and well into the future.
Future flexibility is imperative in all aspects of business operations. It is particularly critical for offices as it’s what will ensure they continue to have tremendous relevance, purpose and value in the ‘new normal’.
Director of Future Workplace
Helping you achieve the optimal combination of people, space and technology, enabling your organisation to realise its maximum potential in a FutureFlexible way.
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