Robert Wilkinson, of hot desking software provider OfficeMaps, details trends he’s observed in recent months that should shape the new year.
The pandemic has taught us over and over to never try and predict the future and to never say never. The optimism of the past few weeks has again proven misguided with the emergence of the Omicron variant. With that in mind, it looks like the full-scale return to normal is still a distant dream and the measures that have kept things afloat will continue to play their part. That leads us to Robert Wilkinson, CXO at OfficeMaps, and his first prediction:
1. Hybrid work is here to stay
“[It’s] probably no surprise for most people,” Wilkinson says. Working from home is no longer a temporary measure or perk and businesses will look ‘out of date’ if they don’t offer a hybrid working environment. Employees expect this flexibility and it’ll become a vital weapon in the talent wars. FMs should keep this in mind, and do what they can to manage spaces that cater well to occupants’ need to shift and change at short notice.
“Various hybrid workplace options are varying from the nomad office, a split between physical and virtual HQs to the hyper flexible model,” says Wilkinson.
“The difference between the models is the level of structure and flexibility for workers. For example, the office-first approach sees workers physically attending the office each day as their first option, through to the other end of the spectrum being the nomad office where everybody comes and goes as they please.”
2. Addressing proximity prejudice
Hybrid work comes with its managerial difficulties. “Many managers are reporting that they struggle more working from home than their direct reports as they try to manage their teams,” Wilkinson says.
Another challenge is remote staff feeling “neglected or being treated differently” to those in the office.
Successfully managing hybrid work teams is about more than just managing spaces and the coming and going of people; it is a cultural shift with which managers, employees and clientele alike must grapple. And we’ll all no doubt get a lot more practice with it in 2022. “Team inclusiveness and performance evaluation processes will be revisited in 2022,” predicts Wilkinson.
3. Tech focus and asynchronous collaborations
Tech has enabled work to continue during the pandemic – always-on connectivity, chatrooms and Zoom meetings. But who feels like they’ve had enough of the video chat? Wilkinson says ‘too many meetings!’ is the biggest complaint OfficeMaps has had over the past year. Businesses are focusing on how teams can collaborate asynchronously, and data is helping facilitate and oversee this work.
4. An office design refocus
The reports of office work’s demise have turned out to be greatly exaggerated, of course. Many people enjoy the shared endeavour of working together in an office environment, but maybe not every day. Hybrid and remote have broken down any geographical barriers between workers and jobs, though, so many businesses will downsize. They no longer require so much space as the office becomes a space for collaboration, connection and inspiration instead of gross productivity.
“We are seeing a demand for more flexible office space, including flexible working spaces such as café areas, casual areas and couches,” says Wilkinson. “We’re also seeing the design of offices being merged with the comfort of home, meaning offices are including comfortable seating, warm lighting, curtains, indoor plants, outdoor seating (where possible), plush carpet and noise reduction/sound absorbing materials like partitions and rugs.”