Right now we would all most likely agree that both the present and future of work have never been murkier or more in flux.  As we evaluate how to evolve our work models, what if we actively embrace the current uncertainty? Use it as a ramp towards a work “renaissance” and leverage it as our pivotal chance to change our workplace. This could be a tremendous opportunity to create an environment that responds to the unique workstyle and workplace needs of your business and its employees. 

What if rather than adopting a dizzying array of popular ideas or models, we stopped to take a deep and thoughtful look inward to discover what our own truest needs might be–what is best and right for our own organization and employees?

And what if by doing so, we radically improve our business results and emerge ever stronger?

In talking with clients who are anxious about making the best decisions for their real estate and business investments, one of the most asked questions is “What best practices might we use as guidelines to create a hybrid workplace?”

Perhaps prior to 2020 I would have relayed helpful metrics, but today my response suggests these four cornerstone considerations:

1.  Seek better questions

The recognition that one size does not fit all is more pertinent than ever. Certainly, we can glean ideas from what other organizations are thinking and doing. But benchmarks, trends, and stats will only get us so far because they focus on what was–-not where we currently are or where we are going. Benchmarks are not there to open our minds. Instead, they more often eclipse our imagination and foreclose on what could be.

Seeking the bigger questions–going wider and deeper–can better serve as a catalyst forward.  Accomplishing the objective of understanding what needs to happen in each unique workspace, and why it’s important that it does, will help inform how to advance. 

2.  Tap into the purpose of your work, and workplace

Now is the time to develop the rigor of introspection and inquiry to pinpoint the essential work that requires our support to generate the greatest outcome. Identifying an organization’s unique purpose, clarifying business goals, and assessing desired effectiveness and work experiences will ultimately help unlock a physical office’s potential value.

This inquiry involves starting from scratch. Breaking things down into simple elements. Stripping away inefficiencies. Questioning everything. And a willingness on the part of leaders to see, acknowledge, and act on the behalf of the truth.

A purpose-led, intentional, workplace strategy is built from answers to questions like these: 

  • What are our most important moments together and how can we inspire and support them?
  • Why should employees come to the physical office? What work is better done there and what is better done remotely? 
  • What is needed in the office to make it a desirable, enjoyable, productive destination and experience for everyone involved?

Organizations that immerse themselves in serious introspection will have an easier time understanding which solutions are most relevant for their particular needs and situations. Conversely, organizations that jump into tactics without clarifying their workspace purpose, may end up with underutilized or ineffective and costly spaces.

©Heather Conley Photography – Multi-use space supports a more engaging and collaborative work culture. 

3.  Go straight to the source

The most reliable way to assess purpose and business goals, and to design the future of how organizations will work, is through a partnership between leadership and their employees that allows for open, honest, exploratory conversations. As the ones living through the ups and downs of various work arrangements during these challenging years, employees will have valuable and diverse personal experiences and preferences. These are integral to understanding how to create meaningful, supportive environments and policies. 

Tools such as focus groups, surveys, and facilitated group discussions can reveal valuable insights. Ask what works and doesn’t work in their remote and in-office work experiences, here as well as in previous office spaces. Ask them what they love most about the organization, their job, and their co-workers. Find out what they wish for the most on a daily basis and what drives their greatest frustrations as well as their greatest sense of pride and accomplishment 

When leaders truly partner with employees, and work together to make intentional decisions with a clear, evidence-based rationale, any disconnect between them can serve as the creative tension point to power an employer/employee-led operating model, designed for today—and tomorrow.

4.  Strive for experience equity 

Every employee and stakeholder has a voice, plays a role, and each brings different requirements for success. No one single setting or set of resources is ideal for everyone at the same time. Flexibility in the planning and design of workstyles and the workspace can help establish the conditions to allow each employee to bring their full self to their work and reach their full potential. 

For example, some employees may enjoy the freedom of remote work, but at times still want access to a workplace that facilitates informal learning, spontaneous get-togethers, and impromptu creativity and innovation. Younger workers and those with children may prefer an office as a place to get work done and help them avoid distractions and maintain a work/life balance at home. Still other employees may believe they need to be visible to be promoted. And many may enjoy coming to an office to collaborate with team members. 

Organizations that study and take into consideration their employees’ various work needs and preferences, as well as what they value about work and the workplace, will stand a better chance of crafting environments that inspire an empowered, 5-star work experience based on choice, flexibility, and inclusion. 

©Heather Conley Photography – Outdoor meeting or work areas can boost creativity, reduce stress, and increase job satisfaction and well-being.

Your moment is now. 

Without a doubt, 2022 will be teeming with inquiry, exploration, piloting of new ideas, and learning. It will usher in a workplace renaissance–the era of focusing on supporting what is essential, recognizing differences, celebrating how we work, and empowering people to excel. Let us guide you with the proper tools and create workspace designs and experiences that will free your employees to be their best and allow your business to thrive long into the future.

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