A recent survey by Work Design Magazine conducted in Boston, Portland and Houston, USA, asked a sample of workplace designers their thoughts on plans to return to offices, how the 2021 workplace might differ from previous years, and things that business owners should be looking out for as their employees return.

As with employees in the UK, many in the USA have already started to return to their offices, albeit on reduced schedules, meaning that office managers and business owners are having to juggle a new range of planning challenges around space, numbers of people in the office, configuration of seating, communal spaces and more.

When asked about the main reason for wanting to return to an office-based workspace at least some of the time, respondents said that technology challenges at home, boundary management at home and the need for in-person contact to increase performance efficiency were some of their motivations.

But interestingly, of the most important reasons for wanting to return to the office included “…personal choice and the ability to bring joy into the workplace” and the need for an “exchange of energy” that cannot be replicated with remote working, no matter how good the virtual communication.

What this means for office managers and business owners is that the space that their employees are coming back to needs to accommodate these needs whilst also promoting observation of Covid-19 protocols… and that’s a tough ask!

Your office space may also have changed during lockdown – whether in size, shape or even location, all of which adds more complexity to the task of creating an inspirational, flexible and adaptable space that promotes a happy, productive and collaborative culture.

But fortunately, there are really simple ways to meet these challenges head-on.

Let’s get talking!

The easiest starting point is simply to speak to staff and ask them what they need, how they feel, what is or isn’t working in their current set-up and how the business can facilitate, help and support change to alleviate stress and increase productivity.

Flex and adapt your space

Based on how many staff you have, how many are returning to the office and what your schedule looks like, think about how you can move furniture and partitions around to create a flow that is simultaneously open plan and non-rigid, but maintains social distance protocols.

Bring in some subtle ‘home comforts’

Try and recreate some of the aspects of home-working that people like – a comfy sofa for breaks, a flexible tea and lunch schedule, the ability to go for a walk when in need of fresh air. Add plants, a new coffee machine, a water cooler, or bring in fresh fruit every couple of days – let your staff know you care.

It won’t always be a smooth and easy process to bring your staff back to office working but by showing that you’re aware of the challenges, open to suggestions and flexible in your approach will certainly help everyone feel more positive and encourage an easier and more productive transition.

For help and guidance on setting up an innovative, flexible and adaptable workspace contact the team at Officescape today on 01223 581185 or info@officescapellp.co.uk today.

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