A human-centred approach to the future of work
Over the last two years, the pandemic has accelerated trends and habits that would have otherwise taken decades, not only uprooting how we think about work as a whole but prompting both employers to reimagine the workplace to meet evolving employee expectations in this new era.
With the rise of hybrid working where employees are seeking greater flexibility, the future of work is grounded in employee autonomy. Organisations must not only embrace a workplace strategy that empowers employees with choice, but must deliver in creating a desirable and purposeful office environment that both earns the commute and supports workers to flourish.
Embrace flexibility in a hybrid era
Flexibility has been pushed to the forefront as companies rethink their workplace strategies and real estate footprint. Many knowledge workers around the world are returning to work in a hybrid manner, opting for a few days working remotely, and a few days in the office to connect and re-engage in-person with their colleagues. Accenture’s recent “Future of Work” study found that 83% of workers prefer a hybrid work model over spending their working week full-time in the office or remote. Flexible, shared workspaces that can support hybrid work and “earn the commute” are fast emerging as an attractive first choice. Providing employees with the flexibility to choose when, where and how they work is no longer a nice to have – but a must have, and delivering a workspace that employees want to visit is crucial. Flexibility in where and when employees get work done will continue to be the defining workplace trend of the future.
Adjust to the shifting purpose of the office
While flexibility in where, when, and how we work is an expectation of knowledge workers today, many employees continue to desire a physical place to gather for specific activities or in-person meetings. If anything, our experience over the last two years has underscored the value of the office, with the role of a workplace more important than ever. With this comes a reimagined purpose of the office and a trend towards flexible office spaces that prioritise dynamic spaces for people to meet, learn, collaborate, and innovate. The rise of a third space – not the home and not a traditional office – fits neatly into how hybrid work is evolving and shaping the role of the new office landscape in major cities. In the context of new worker expectations — where people want more flexibility around not just how, but where they work — access to third spaces is key. The office of the future will be designed to support people to feel connected, beyond simply being a place to go.
Deliver amenity-rich experiences
While focus work has a place in the office ecosystem, it is no longer the main purpose of a physical workplace. Workplace expectations have changed significantly and business leaders must be proactive in building robust hybrid work strategies to retain and attract top talent. A physical space can support a company’s culture, and finding ways to maintain and foster that same sense of connection in a remote world is challenging. Days spent in the office will prioritise in-person connection and creativity by balancing “active” and “focus” areas, paired with a diversity of amenities, space types and services to create a richness of the employee experience. The human desire for experiences is even more critical for younger generations of hybrid workers who are beginning their careers and crave mentorship and professional development. As workspace design evolves to support new ways of working, creating opportunities for unscheduled social interactions or spontaneous conversations helps to drive a sense of belonging, a benefit of the workplace that employees miss out while working from home.
Achieve a healthy work/ life balance
The workplace remains a key element of what makes our CBDs vibrant, but it is not the office alone that will encourage workers back. City planners must also respond to changing residential, business and recreational interests to re-create thriving metropolises, drive economic recovery and help our cities to bounce back. To better understand how priorities around work-life balance have changed as a result of the pandemic, a report by Economist Impact found that workers at all seniority levels who are offered flexible working arrangements report more positive work-life balance and see the value of the office, with a majority (59%) of business leaders reporting a hybrid working arrangement had a positive effect on their work-life balance, compared with only 23% of those who did not have a hybrid arrangement. In a bid to attract workers to return to the office, businesses are opting for high-end, centrally located office spaces with, or near, gyms, cafés and restaurants, even if workers will only be there for part of the working week. With a renewed sense of personal wellbeing, we see it’s the diversity and density of a city that shapes a vibrant live, work and play experience for office workers.
Thinking about the future of work, businesses around the world are beginning to adapt to pandemic-driven workplace changes. Right now, we have the opportunity to reimagine work and rethink the office experience as part of an ecosystem for meaningful human interactions and the creation of community.
Article by Balder Tol, General Manager Australia and Southeast Asia at WeWork.
Balder will be speaking at this year’s Be Summit on the session Post-COVID CBD’s and the Future of Work. To hear more from him and the other panellists, book your ticket to the summit, Friday 13 May, here.
WeWork (NYSE: WE) was founded in 2010 with the vision to create environments where people and companies come together and do their best work. Since then, WeWork has become one of the leading global flexible space providers committed to delivering technology-driven turnkey solutions, flexible spaces, and community experiences. For more information about WeWork, please visit https://wework.com.
Balder Tol, General Manager, Australia and Southeast Asia
As an experienced director with a demonstrated history of working in the hospitality industry, Balder Tol is Dutch and received a masters in management at the University of Sydney before becoming Airbnb Australia’s first employee in 2012. Following his passion for building communities, he became the general manager of Tank Stream Labs, a technology-focused coworking space located in the heart of Sydney before joining WeWork as the company’s first Australian hire in 2016. As General Manager of Australia and Southeast Asia, Balder is focused on building a diverse and engaged community of members, while simultaneously leading a cross functional local leadership team to improve efficiencies across WeWork’s national portfolio.