As we experience and navigate the accelerated changes in our way of working, these 'Five Es' will help occupiers identify and act on the priorities of the future of work.
Long-established work practices and business models have been tested like never before - especially when it comes to our workplaces, which are undergoing unprecedented and accelerating change.
In our recent WORK3 | The Future of Work report, we explored the parameters shaping the future of work and recommended occupiers rethink their real estate strategies across three dimensions – work ‘place’, ‘space’ and ‘pace’. This will present challenges but also unlock fresh opportunities.
As we experience and navigate the accelerated changes in our way of working, we have developed ‘Five Es’ to help occupiers identify and act on the priorities of the future of work.
"Business performance and employee needs will have to be balanced across a wider range of physical, and virtual, work places and spaces."
1. EXPERIENCE: Think 'employee first'
The rapid adoption of technology and remote working is enabling occupiers to introduce more diversity to their real estate portfolios. Some choose to provide access points across various locations - from CBD offices (which will remain vital collaboration hubs, to decentralised facilities) and employees’ homes.
As a result, business performance and employee needs will have to be balanced across a wider range of physical, and virtual, work places and spaces.
Enterprises should consider each aspect of the office journey from arrival through departure, ensuring functions and features are designed for engagement and to serve different end-user needs.
For employees, that means supporting effortless transitions between activities based on collaboration and those requiring privacy, with spaces that incorporate meeting rooms, private booths, rest areas and shared refreshment stations that can trigger spontaneous chats.
For clients, the journey should begin with a warm and welcoming reception on arrival, moving on to comfortable, well-equipped meeting spaces that put people at ease and speak to the strength of the occupier’s brand.
The commitment to experience must also extend beyond office walls. Occupiers should invest in technology and infrastructure that ensure employees can work remotely with ease and in physical comfort, and connect seamlessly with teams working on-site and remotely.
Businesses can explore emerging tools like branded virtual environments to give remote workers a genuine sense of being ‘in the room,’ and part of the team.
2. EXPERIMENT: Test new office designs and models
In 2020, we learned the importance of experimentation through the overnight transition to remote working. The work, place and space needs of occupiers and businesses will constantly evolve, and being able to adapt from fixed to flexible is the demand of the hour.
Occupiers should trial and combine different workplace models - work from home, hybrid, and distributed - to determine the right blend for their business, and build readiness to redeploy resources in response to external conditions.
For companies, the ability to experiment further paves the way for flexible real estate strategies, where occupancy targets or team locations can be adjusted to suit changing health or business circumstances. Office functions can be rebalanced and spaces reconfigured on demand, to reduce density or emphasise their collaborative role, with significant potential to boost efficiency and optimise operating costs.
Employees, meanwhile, will be freer to choose between work settings, desired experiences and locations to suit their circumstances or the tasks at hand. Instead of a fixed space the future workplace will be akin to a theatre, constantly adapting and evolving to support different business functions.
3. EDUCATE: Communicate the priority placed on wellness
As employees trickle back to the office, safeguarding their physical environment should be the main focus. Communicating and implementing robust health and safety measures will aid compliance, while ensuring employees feel protected and cared for.
These measures should go beyond the basics. Occupiers should proactively consult with employees to identify their main concerns and invest in solutions that address these directly, whether touchless access points within workspaces or productivity-enhancing technologies that make remote working more viable.
"Communicating and implementing robust health and safety measures will aid compliance, while ensuring employees feel protected and cared for."
Central, distributed and virtual workplaces must be put on equal health and wellness footing, by ensuring employees have consistent access to advice and support, and that health and safety protocols cover anyone working remotely for extended periods. Regularly broadcasting updates on resource or policy changes can help employees make informed decisions about when to come to the office and when to stay home.
The fear and doubt around the pandemic make it best to err on the side of overdoing health and safety communications.
4. EMBRACE: Enable multiple ways of working
Various business and employee needs have evolved over the course of the pandemic and will continue to change in the future of work, making normality a moving target.
While remote working is here to stay, people are also looking forward to returning to a redefined office, on average for at least three to four days a week, according to Colliers Work-from-Home Experience in APAC research.
This argues for occupiers to allow for differences in the pace of work, and recognise productivity can depend on context. Working from home may negatively impact the performance of working parents, for example, but bring the best out of someone whose role requires concentration.
Assessing productivity at the individual rather than the business level, and adjusting performance metrics to cater to a more distributed workforce, is the best way to ensure a fair playing field.
5. EMPOWER: Provide clarity and certainty
Many employers and employees have, understandably, developed an unwritten code governing this new style of working. However, companies should commit to the new normal by setting clear expectations up front. This means formalising policies to set clear expectations for employees working out of remote locations, such as protocols for virtual collaboration and degrees of autonomy in decision-making.
Leadership should set the tone from the top, and demonstrate commitment through regular check-ins, which are especially important for remote workers to reinforce that their views are valued. Any challenges should be seen as opportunities to learn, and used to help teams grow and improve.
Concerted demonstrations of support for individual’s preferred ways of working will empower a sense of psychological safety within teams, ensuring the pace of work is optimised, and performance recognised. Regardless of where employees work, they should feel supported and valued, which will naturally result in higher performance.
"Prepare to manage spaces flexibly, enable teams to convene on demand, and highlight the value of human interactions in physical workspaces."
As we continue to thrive in reshaping the future of work, it is paramount to empower people and enterprises to readily adapt to the new ways of working.
Change will be constant. Prepare to manage spaces flexibly, enable teams to convene on demand, and highlight the value of human interactions in physical workspaces. The future of work will further enable businesses that are resilient, nimble and driven.
These will be the focuses of our upcoming Next Work Experience report, which we’re excited to unveil very soon - watch this space.