Workplace, Interrupted. Episode 5

23 June 2021

As technology continues to develop at speed to support seamless working from home experiences, Heather asks “does the panel think that the traditional version of ‘Office’ will disappear completely?”

“The idea of ‘office’ is a bit of an emotive term and conjures up visions of rows of desks with people clicking away and staring at screens.  I think that will change for sure.  But, there will always need to be a place for people to come together” said Tom.  With both designer and Client ‘hats’ on, Nicholas and Tom agreed that there will always be a need for a workspace but estimated that 50% of corporate real estate as we know it today will be gone or be re-purposed within the next 5 years.   Expanding on this, Paul suggested that the majority of workspace will be given over to collaboration space.  “You need a place for collaboration and connection in one hub that create opportunities to exchange ideas” agreed Nicholas, with Tom adding that the best of the best in workplace, which provides forward thinking technology, spaces and employee culture will help large corporations attract a new generation of Users in the ‘arms race’ for talent attraction and retention.

“One of the things I’m hearing when talking to organisations is that the lack of real time, face to face interaction is resulting in no-one learning from each other anymore” says Richard. “Whilst initially working from home resulted in productivity going up as people had more focused work time, we are now seeing productivity reducing due to the lack of trust, wellbeing and community.  Workspaces of the future must enable employees to do both the informal ‘shallow work’ (emailing, zoom meetings, admin etc) which keeps the engine moving, with more focused work which is ultimately what employees are employed to do” Richard added. 

“So how do we get people back into the office?  Is it as simple as incorporating beanbags and a walking track into your design like AirBnB and the tech companies were doing a few years ago?”  asked Paul.

“It’s not just about getting people back but it about creating environments for them that provide choice” shared Nicholas.  Tom agreed that workplaces should perform like a gym space with different equipment for different results.  In the workplace, different types of tools, settings or spaces should be available to meet the different employee needs and requirements, and this simply can’t be done effectively at home. 

“So, what technology will incentivize employees to return to the office” asks Paul.  Richard countered that he doesn’t think it’s about the type of technology but the use of technology and encouraging good behaviour.  “We’ve all sat through mis-managed Zoom meetings which were like ‘pulling teeth,” he said, “it’s about creating the right technology to support employees and then creating the right behaviours to align with the technology.  That will be the key to success.”

With employees now experiencing a hybrid type of working, partly from home, partly from a re-purposed office environment, Heather asks Paul, what is the type of technology that’s around now and what’s in the pipeline to support employees in this new working ‘norm?’

This interesting question brings about a lot of debate from around the table and we’ll be sharing the panelists’ thoughts in our 6th and final blog from the Workplace Interrupted round table discussion.