The great return: why conventional workplaces still matter
With 78% of workers saying they want to work from home three days a week, the days of conventional workplaces might seem numbered. But despite the success of WFH, there are some compelling reasons why the idea that office workplaces have become obsolete could be premature. Here’s why there’s no need to panic if you’re in facilities management.
Business premises can be surprisingly influential when it comes to forming an impression of an organisation. In fact, people will get an impression of a business just seconds after visiting their offices. And the workplace environment impacts at different levels, including talent acquisition and staff morale.
Business premises are a storefront, a place to differentiate yourself from the competition. The office lets your business showcase its ethos, culture and values in physical form. A well-managed building is a clear indication of credibility and success.
One thing lockdown has highlighted is how social human beings are. While remote working has introduced the flexibility some workers crave, the novelty of Zoom meetings has begun to pall. And while research indicates that flexible work options are now part of the landscape, work is far more likely to evolve into a hybrid of WFH and office time than a fully remote working solution.
What technology can’t replicate are the water cooler moments. The micro-interactions that workers enjoy with their colleagues passing their desks or grabbing a coffee in the breakout area.
Online meetings are perceived as all business, leaving little room for the human interactions that are proven to boost productivity and staff morale. Another reason that the office is far from dead is the vital role it plays in the wellbeing and mental health of workers, helping to fend off the loneliness of remote work.
Innovation and generation
But workplaces aren’t just places to generate social interaction. They also benefit innovation and idea generation, those light bulb moments that can’t be scheduled into a Zoom call.
Developing new ideas is a dynamic process, and inspiration can strike at any moment. The ability to capture the spark and turn it into a conversation with a colleague is what drives creativity in most workplaces. And it’s something that virtual contact can’t hope to replicate.
The boundary between conventional workplaces and home has been eroding for a while, enhanced by always-on technology. It’s much easier to stay connected to the office 24/7 which should benefit flexible working patterns and employers and employees alike.
But research shows that’s not the case. In fact, increased connectivity is a source of anxiety for most workers who feel the pressure to be connected even when they’re not working from home. The always-on culture begins to feel like an unspoken performance expectation from the top-down, disguised as an advantage in increased convenience and flexible working. But the impact on morale and wellbeing is rarely considered.
Burnout is an inherent risk of a 24/7 work culture and can escalate into serious health problems that ultimately reduce productivity and increase absenteeism. Having no right to disconnect is storing up a ticking public health timebomb, meaning the return to the office can’t come soon enough.
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