For many years, working from home (WFH) had been widely perceived as a bludge, yet suddenly in 2020, people across the world were expected to turn their homes into efficient and effective workplaces.
The change was rapid and significant and challenged many long-held beliefs that WFH was only appropriate for certain roles, demographics, personality traits and workstyle archetypes.
If there is one key takeaway for small businesses in this period of change, it is that we don’t know what the future holds. While it may sound like a cliché learning, we can strategise, plan, and attempt to predict till the cows come home, but we cannot be certain of what our industry or market will look like in a year’s time.
This is the same for the future of work, it is constantly evolving and changing. From the global uptake of Zoom to Atlassian using the Metaverse to connect employees together, the changes in behaviour and the way we work are profound. And what we do know for certain is that the way the workplace looks and performs today will not be the same in six months or a year’s time, so the amount of office space a business needs will continue to change.
A 2021 survey conducted by Dexus, a real estate investment trust, found that 20 per cent of its clients need more office space and nearly 80 per cent of people want to work in the office three days or more a week.
While there is still significant reluctance to return to the office full-time, small businesses must figure out the best hybrid working scenario which aligns with employee needs and company culture. For many businesses, this looks like the TWAT model (Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday) in the office.
Switch up your space
The office now provides a different experience to work than what employees will get at home. Our client research has identified that people want to come to the office to collaborate and socialise, and this will be prioritised over focussed, individual work, which can be mostly executed at home. (The office does still need to support focused work, however).
Small businesses should consider “unowned” or shared desk scenarios and reduce the number of individual settings in place of more shared and collaborative settings. Workshop-style setups with whiteboards and moveable furniture will better meet today’s needs of employees.
Altering the type of space your office provides will be more useful for employees than moving to a smaller, more constricted space. The best way to start this process is to ask your employees what they want from the office, engage them in the process, and provide opportunities to test and learn. This will be key to determining the most appropriate future space, in terms of quality and quantity.
Don’t downsize on human connection
Additionally, smaller office space comes with limited capacity. If you downsize to an office that cannot host all your employees, this will restrict company-wide collaboration, meetings, and events. The office plays an important role in creating and supporting human connection, it fosters team culture and morale which is particularly important as employees look to prioritise wellbeing in their experience of work.
Give yourself the opportunity for growth
Downsizing to a small space can sometimes reduce opportunities for growth and signal a narrow, fixed mindset. Our physical environment can have a very tangible impact on our mental headspace, just as many found the impact of WFH full-time difficult after during extended periods.
Allowing yourself the space, at least until you are certain what the future holds for your organisation, can create expansive thinking and strategy and support important goals around growth, prosperity and longevity.