Office Redesign for the Hybrid Age
Many office workers who demonstrated during the epidemic that they didn't need to be onsite to perform their jobs now view flexibility as the new normal.
In the entryway of the building, one florist places crimson flowers in a white vase while another puts delicate cherry blossom branches in a large black vase. While others put bottles of Auchentoshan scotch and Courvoisier cognac onto a bar, workers arrange foliage around the doorways to hallways to simulate arbors. Beam Suntory Inc. was busy getting ready to open the doors of its brand-new Manhattan headquarters.
The maker of Maker's Mark and Jim Beam bourbons planned the layout of its new offices while the COVID-19 pandemic was underway, giving company leaders a unique perspective on how the public health emergency was challenging conventional workplace conventions. One of the main innovations of the COVID-19 era is reflected in the space: the widespread use of hybrid work schedules. Beam Suntory reduced allocated seats and most private offices after realizing that employees would spend less time on-site, but made sure that there were plenty of conference rooms of all sizes and open areas where coworkers could congregate.
"Prior to 2020, individuals worked and managed their lives around that. According to Paula Erickson, senior vice president and global CHRO for Beam Suntory, a division of Japan's Suntory Holdings, "people now live, and work needs to fit into their life." "Since we are in the relationship industry, we could never be entirely remote. We are inclined toward hybrid.
Designing Offices Differently
Beam Suntory is not by themselves. According to a survey performed by real estate juggernaut CBRE last year, nearly three-quarters of businesses (73 percent) stated they want to embrace hybrid work, while only 19 percent will demand employees to spend all of their time in the office.
Employees desire this flexibility. According to a recent study by consulting company McKinsey & Co., approximately 90% of employees choose to work remotely at least part of the time when given the option.
"The place where you worked was the office. The office was work, according to Janet Pogue McLaurin, global director of workplace research at Gensler, an architecture and design business with headquarters in San Francisco. "Now, work is not where you are, but it is what you do."
Many business executives are now considering what function the office currently serves and how to reshape it for the future in light of this new reality. A small number of businesses have given up on real estate investments and embraced a wholly remote workforce because they believe it has become superfluous. However, the majority see the benefits of bringing coworkers together and are redesigning their offices to add comfortable, practical meeting rooms while also providing quiet areas for solitary work.
According to a recent survey by MillerKnoll Inc., also known as Herman Miller, a company that manufactures office furniture and is situated in Zeeland, Michigan, nearly 75% of workers believe that interacting with coworkers is the main reason they go to work.
Being with other people is the new office amenity, according to Pogue McLaurin.
Hybrid and Remote Challenges
Companies are working to enhance the videoconferencing experience, especially for individuals who are not there, as they recognize that it will be a staple in hybrid workplaces. New technology has attracted a lot of investment. Big screens were installed in Beam Suntory's conference rooms, which include half-moon-shaped tables instead of the more conventional rectangular furniture in the larger rooms. According to Erickson, the setup makes it simpler for remote workers to view everyone in the meeting.
According to Erickson, "someone will be remote on any given day, and this way the people who show up on the screen look like they're sitting in the meeting room."
Another ongoing problem for companies is designing the physical environment to support hybrid work, even though many think it's one of the simpler things they have to complete. The majority of bosses are still figuring out how to divide up office time fairly among workers while making sure that work gets done. Employees have expressed frustration about arriving at work to find that no one else from their team is there or about not having time to communicate with coworkers face-to-face since their days are occupied with Zoom sessions.
Ryan Anderson, vice president of global research and analytics at MillerKnoll, claims that management mindsets likely lag in some situations and that leadership mindset advances more slowly than real estate transactions. "This is about giving people more power over how they experience their jobs."
Employers also gain from hybrid work. According to a Prudential Financial survey, 70% of hybrid employees say they have a strong sense of devotion to their employer, compared to 64% of in-person employees and 59% of remote employees. Additionally, hybrid employees are more inclined to think that their business treats them fairly and that the perks it offers are suited to their particular needs.
Still, a lot of businesses, particularly those in the financial sector, including Goldman Sachs Group, Morgan Stanley, and JPMorgan Chase & Co., mandate that employees come into the office each day. At an industry meeting in 2021, Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman famously remarked, "If you can go into a restaurant in New York City, you can come to the office."
According to numerous studies, a sizable portion of people believe they would resign from their positions if they were required to work at their offices full-time. However, those who work in the financial sector are sometimes bound to their companies by substantial salaries and incentives, also known as "golden handcuffs." Most other sectors don't provide such opulent pay.
Even as the economy slows down, the labor market remains tight, and some CEOs claim that maintaining competitiveness by providing mixed schedules. Given the competition for expertise in some fields, "We weren't going to be silly about [refusing to offer hybrid work]," adds Beam Suntory's Erickson.
It remains to be seen if companies would use a weak economy to compel employees back to work full-time. Many managers favor on-site employment and may use the threat of job loss as a club. But Julia Lamm, partner for workforce planning at professional services firm PwC, believes that approach is a short-sighted one.
In the event of a recession, Lamm predicts that workers will regain control and that businesses will soon be scrambling to recover. Companies that acknowledge that hybrid is here to stay and that we should determine out what works for us will, in my opinion, be more successful in the long run than those that make workers feel compelled to return without being given a good reason for doing so.
Many businesses have invested time, money, and effort into creating hybrid work environments. Eaton Corp., a power management business, renovated its Raleigh, North Carolina, office while staff members were working from home during the epidemic, similar to how Beam Suntory did.
"The reimagination was to design a space that facilitated two primary things: collaboration and flexibility," explains Lori Tyler, director of human resources at Eaton. "We created a space that would accommodate our diverse employee population's varied needs."
For instance, Tyler points out that the company provides spaces in the office since it is aware that certain employees might not have private spaces at home where they can focus on tasks that call for intense concentration.
"We wanted it to be more intentional, more fun, more engaging, and obviously flexible for employees so that they can balance the needs of their roles at work with their needs at home," adds Tyler.
The five levels of Eaton's building had the same layout prior to the redesign: a perimeter of offices encircled by a tangle of cubicles in the middle. no longer. The first floor of the office is primarily an open area with couches, seats, and booths where groups can congregate for work and socializing. For large groups, there is also a roomy meeting area with stadium seating. The "Zen space," designated for silent work, is located on the fourth story. Open space, meeting spaces, and tiny rooms for concentrated work are mixed across the remaining three stories. According to Tyler, the business expects to grow by roughly 150 employees over the next five years, and the new design can support that expansion without the need for more office space.
According to Tyler, Eaton conducted numerous surveys asking workers' input on anything from their ideas for the space to their preferred chairs in order to assist with the transition. She does, however, admit that she had to spend a lot of time explaining the company's move to hybrid work to managers and staff. She explains that "some people needed time to warm up to the concept."
The top management of Eaton made the decision to let managers and staff make their own schedules. Experts often advise against that tactic because it could result in accusations of workplace inequality because some managers may favor hybrid work more than others.
However, Tyler claims to be unaware of any similar concerns at Eaton, and she credits this to the fact that the business took the time to explain the rationale behind the change. Employees are aware that some tasks will demand more on-site time than others, she continues. Since the business only started going back to the freshly planned location last year, Tyler thinks there might still be some growing pains.
There was change management before to this, and there still is a need for it, according to her.
A effective policy depends on adapting management philosophies and practices. Clients of MillerKnoll want to know why staff aren't spending as much time in communal areas as they should be.
"Meetings," Anderson replies. People claim to have come to work to socialize, but they have actually spent the entire day secluded in front of a laptop.
He recommends that managers set a time restriction for online meetings and urge staff to schedule time for in-person interactions with coworkers and quiet, reflective work.
Without offering individuals the opportunity to socialize, Anderson asserts, "you can't expect them to use the social space."
It could take some time to find the proper balance. thredUP, an online consignment and thrift company, has already modified its first mixed work schedule. The Oakland, California-based corporation first required everyone to spend one week a month in the office. However, thredUP, which also implemented a four-day workweek, decided to have everyone report to work on Wednesdays after around 10 months.
The adjustment, according to Natalie Breece, the company's chief diversity and people officer, was made so that workers would stay in touch throughout the month rather than compressing all in-person encounters into one week. Additionally, it allowed workers more freedom and spread out their commute time over the course of the month. Some workers, though, looked forward to coming in for a week at a time.
"We made the decision to pursue this new strategy; who knows? We might turn around, Breece suggests. "It all comes down to actually knowing what options are available to us for fostering connection, team culture, and camaraderie. Our thinking is fairly flexible and constantly changing.
From: SHRM's workplace editor, Theresa Agovino