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The Future Of Flexible Office Space After COVID

In his article, “Why a Hybrid Workplace Will Be The Best Model Moving Forward“, Dan Schawbel, New York Times Bestselling Author and Managing Partner of Workplace Intelligence, wrote that remote working has changed from primarily a company perk to a crucial requirement over the last decade.

While some employers have embraced remote working, others believe that having employees working from an office is far more beneficial. Some of the reasons mentioned behind this thinking are as follows;

Feelings of Seclusion
During the pandemic, lockdown resulted in increased feelings of isolation – especially for people living on their own. Remote working further exacerbated these feelings because employees found it difficult to create personal connections with their colleagues, and build a team culture over email, video or telephone calls.

Fear of Being Overlooked
Many employees have an inherent fear that, if they are not regularly visible, that they will be forgotten and therefore overlooked when it comes to promotions and other opportunities within the company.

Lack of Focus
Although distractions happen, whether working remotely from home or in an office environment, distractions at home are more commonplace, especially from children and partners. As each person’s workspace at home is different, so too is their ability to ignore distractions – up to a point. A consistent loss of focus can severely impact an employee’s productivity, especially if they are not highly self-disciplined.

Background talking and notification alerts are mentioned as two of the most disruptive types of background noise, resulting in a loss of work focus and varying levels of miscommunication. A Doodle survey of more than 1,100 U.S. employees determined that 52% of the employees had their focus disrupted by background noise and/or low audio quality, while 23% said that it led to miscommunications with clients.

Work From Home Burnout
Remote working has shown to cause some mental health issues, such as anxiety and stress, as a result of a work-life imbalance. According to a study of over 1,000 remote employees by Twingate, remote working is causing workers to lose their sense of work/life balance during the pandemic.

Their findings also included:
• A full week of virtual meetings leaves 38% of employees feeling exhausted, while 30% felt stressed.
• 45% of employees reported attending more meetings during the pandemic than when working in the office, compared to 21% who attended fewer meetings.
• 40% of employees experienced mental exhaustion from video calls while working remotely.

In terms of another source of stress to employees, caused by perceptions and experiences relating to company IT security, the findings indicated:
• 59% of employees felt more cyber-secure working in-office compared to at home.
• 58% of employees reported discussing sensitive information on work video calls.
• Over 1 in 10 employees had their video calls hacked while working remotely.

CEOs from other large corporates, such as Netflix’s Reed Hastings, also expressed their low regard for remote work stating that it is “a pure negative”.

Slack is a collaboration hub that provides digital tools and services to improve people’s working lives. In a recent study released, they found that only 13% of the global workforce preferred to work from home remotely on a full-time basis.

Is Hybridised Office Space A Workable Solution?
Sundar Pichai, Chief Executive officer of Alphabet Inc. and it’s subsidiary Google said, “We firmly believe that in-person, being together, and having a sense of community is super important when you have to solve hard problems and create something new – so we don’t see that changing. But we do think we need to create more flexibility and more hybrid models. And when Google comes up with a new approach to working, most companies follow.”

In another survey about the ideal working environment, Dan Schawbel stated that over 72 percent of employees interviewed by his company said they wanted a hybrid remote-office model. This finding was backed up by Stanford University Economics Professor Nicholas Bloom, who says that the optimal situation is remote working two days a week.

Microsoft is also considering a “hybrid workplace” environment, and 62 percent of Google employees indicated their desire to return to their offices, but not every day. Sodexo has split their workforce into two groups which rotate between the office and working remotely.

Although remote working does allow employees a certain amount of flexibility, there is no perfect solution, since flexibility is determined by an individual’s needs and not their company. Rather, a blend of working from home and the office will allow individuals the flexibility which they need to manage their lives, yet still be able to socialise with colleagues and develop a more effective work culture and working relationships when in the office. Ultimately, in the search for and the ability to retain the best talent in a highly competitive world, companies will need to adopt a hybrid workplace model to be attractive as an employer of choice.

However, many employees miss a physical office space, and consequently, many companies will be embracing flexible office space in the future to support their hybrid workplace model. Providers of furnished office space, such as The Business Exchange, rent out prestigious workspaces in Gauteng and Mauritius on flexible terms that appeal to companies looking to adopt a hybridised and cost-effective office space solution.

The beautifully designed office spaces for rent that the Business Exchange provides, cater to 200 people with a choice of virtual, private or co-working office space. Tenants are also afforded many opportunities through TBE’s sales and marketing activities to help their businesses grow, something which is not available if employees are purely working remotely.

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