Organizations are only beginning to grapple with the issues of creating an effective hybrid workplace. We talked with Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics (GWA), a research and consulting firm that helps employers understand and prepare for the future of work. Kate shared her insights into what’s working and what’s not in the new hybrid landscape.
Last year, the global pandemic forever changed how people think about the workplace. COVID-19 forced organizations to adopt a remote work model almost overnight. For most, the sudden shift caught them unprepared. Some 50% of employees hadn’t previously worked offsite on any regular basis. And only 7% worked offsite half-time or more.
Now, with more than a year of working from home, most employees have hit their stride. Over half of US workers say they won’t return to a job unless remote work is allowed and only 10–15% of office workers want to return full time. Another 15–25% are perfectly happy continuing to work remote. The remaining 50–60% want a mix that would include half of the time in each place.
But how that plays out, particularly in the short run, is fraught with challenges around redefining the purpose of "the office" in a world that’s managed remarkably well from home for more than a year. These challenges are two-fold: organizations need to build and adopt a "blend" of hybrid work that’s effective both for business outcomes and employee engagement.
As a response, organizations are bringing staff back to the office using a blended approach: part work-from-home, part in-office. According to research by Steelcase, 72% of global organizations are planning some degree of hybrid work; another recent survey found 82% of US-based companies now offer permanent work-from-home options.
The hybrid approach allows companies to reap the benefits of onsite and remote work; but it introduces a new set of problems.
When designing and building an effective hybrid workplace, designers and strategists should identify the goals for the space. Understand how people will use it for work: What types of work need support? What is the footprint for those spaces? How often are various types of workspaces needed?
Research shows the most successful hybrid workplace implementations are those that intentionally rethink their practices and processes and align them with their strategic goals. Here’s how that looks in practice:
The ideal workplace is borderless. It includes office spaces and home spaces and third spaces. Its goal is to help employees get their jobs done wherever they are—working from home, the office or a hybrid of the two.
Creating effective workplaces that enhance the employee experience requires care and attention. In the rush to return to "normal" and get workers back to the office, organizations may force people to return to the way it was.
Instead, be a part of building the way it could be.
About Kate Lister
Kate Lister is president of Global Workplace Analytics, a research-based consulting firm that has been helping communities and organizations optimize the employer, employee, and environmental outcomes of flexible and distributed work for more than fifteen years. Her perspectives on how Covid-19 will change the way people work have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, and dozens of other respected news outlets. Kate was one of only three witnesses invited to testify before a U.S. Senate committee on the expansion of telework in government post-Covid-19.
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