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Rethinking the on-site experience? It’s time to say goodbye to the “office”

In March 2020, the pandemic forced many to work from home. But, in the last month or so, the increase in vaccinated people and decrease in hospitalizations gave US employers hope that they could call employees back on-site. However, migrating back to the workplace has proven to be trickier than anticipated and employees are questioning why they need to return.

For many, the shift to remote work has been successful. But there have also been reports of employees experiencing more loneliness, burnout, and work creep. Companies transitioned fast to remote work, but this haste has led to some gaps in the remote work model. The good news is, companies can evolve their workplace to fill these gaps and make the workplace a more attractive space to employees. That starts with rebranding what people think of when they think about the “office.” 

Lately, in my conversations with other workplace leaders, I’ve noticed the absence of the term “office.” Dropbox has rebranded its offices to call them “studios.” Vistaprint calls its offices “collaboration hubs” and Slack calls them “Places.” This move away from terms like “office” and “workplace” is an effort to leave old stigmas behind—the cubicle, the clocking in and out, the micromanagement, and the office politics.

Words are powerful and this trend reveals a profound shift happening in the workplace. These new words—“studios,” “hubs,” and “places”—allow the mind to drift away from the negative residue that comes with the word “office.” Words also have the potential to create a new narrative. Today, companies are writing a new story on work. They’re deliberately choosing to remove the word “office” from their vernacular and redefining the value proposition of coming together on-site. 

Closing the gaps in remote work 

Employees may love commute-free mornings and flex schedules, but after more than a year of remote work, many are now dealing with new challenges like Zoom fatigue, back pain, burnout, and difficulty maintaining work-life balance. 

Employees want the best of working from home and the best of working on-site. According to a survey from Future Forum by Slack, employees have shown that solo and focused work is best done at home while collaboration and team building require bigger facilities. But not all workplaces were designed for a hybrid work model.

“A study led by VergeSense of over 40 million square feet of office space revealed that 83% of pre-pandemic space was allocated to individual work. Only 17% was dedicated to collaborative work.” 

Companies need to drastically revamp their space offering to address the issues of remote work. They also need to invest in redesigning their spaces to allow for more:

  • Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Learning and innovation
  • Social bonding
  • Resting and recharging 

Companies that postpone or resist making the investment necessary to renovate their spaces will see a drastic increase in turnover, burnout, and disengagement. The large number of employees quitting their jobs (more than 4 million since January 2021) should be an alarm.

Welcome back to the office a new experience 

Productivity has increased throughout the pandemic, but we’re also seeing employees struggle with socializing and collaborating. This disconnect is the perfect opportunity for organizations to dive deep into these pain points and address issues head-on.

Employees say they can do some tasks from the comfort of their own homes but they need a larger physical space for collaboration and team building. To adapt, the new workplace should center around creativity, team building, health, and socializing to provide an encouraging place for employees to grow. 

Leading the way, Dropbox announced that they will use their studios “not as the primary place for any employee to work, but as a place for teams and co-workers to come together.” The company is hyper-focused on keeping team camaraderie alive and sees the workplace as the space to nurture culture.

The most forward-thinking companies are shifting their workplaces to be a space where employees can connect, bond, engage, and exchange ideas. Why? Because anthropological studies have shown that human beings work best when they:

  • Feel safe 
  • Feel valued 
  • Feel part of a community 
  • Get inspired 
  • Can rest
  • Are healthy
  • Work with others toward a bigger goal

To transform the workplace, companies have to dive deeper into human psychology and adopt a human-centric design. How does the human brain work? What fuels creativity? What is the impact of good health? What is the best environment to create new ideas? The answers to these questions will determine the best way to create a space where employees can be happy, healthy, innovative, and successful in the long term.

The conventional way of working is long gone 

There is no longer a conventional way to work. Employees now work in different time zones, use new technologies, and have new workflows. But the future of work is still ambiguous and many employees feel left in the dark about where it’s headed. More than 40% say they’ve yet to hear about any vision from their organizations. Workplace leaders need to communicate clearly and often as they shift the workplace to these new creative studios and hybrid hubs.  

Whether companies are implementing hot desks or designing laptop-free stations, it falls on workplace leaders to communicate that change by better branding the purpose of their space. Here are a few examples:

  • The resting corner
  • The social club
  • The creative hive
  • The learning tower
  • The solo bubble 

The future of work is constantly evolving. The role of the office, how it’s designed, and how it’s branded will have to move as fast to appeal to employees. 

We are on the cusp of a new workplace. Renaming the office is the first step to redesigning it to be more intentional and people-centric. Offices have become more than just a place to work. They offer employees a place to meet, learn, engage, disrupt, create, collaborate, learn, feel, inspire, and be together in real life.

To meet employees’ new work needs, workplace leaders must close the gaps between what we’ve known the office to be and where it’s headed. That’s the only way the office can become the grand culture and innovation hub companies are craving.

Adopting a hybrid work model? Download Envoy’s ebook, How to identify and solve hybrid work challenges, to get practical tips for creating a workplace your people love.