A phenomenon that quietly started a few years ago has grown to the point where it has broken into the mainstream and it’s reshaping the modern office space.
It’s hard to assign an exact date to when it started, but sometime in the last half-decade, shifting attitudes about working in-office merged with the tech tools that made it easier than ever to get things done from anywhere. Many employees found that they could be just as effective working from home or anywhere else as they were in the traditional office routine. Invariably, this led to questions about just why so many people were expected to be sitting at a particular desk for eight hours a day and endure the commuting headaches and life compromises that came with it.
But it wasn’t until the outbreak of the COVID pandemic that what started out as an under-the-radar trend turned into a cultural movement with support suddenly coming in from every side. Almost overnight, millions of office workers who had never previously imagined themselves anywhere other than at their desks on Monday morning at 9 a.m. discovered that they too could get 95% of their daily work done while sitting in their kitchens, home offices, or any number of places.
Within the space of not even five years, we went from “Of course I work in an office” to “Why would I work in an office?”
Looking back, it’s clear that the business landscape had to shift to catch up but only now can we see just what happened.
The Great Resignation is what happened. This is the term that has been given to the enormous wave of talented professionals who, having opened their eyes to the new opportunities made possible by their newfound flexibility, decided to chart a new professional path forward.
For some, this meant literally walking away from their jobs to set up their own companies, enter a new field altogether, or to make their professional lives a much smaller part of their existence. For others, The Great Resignation marked a reevaluation of the role of the workplace in their identities.
Some employees were motivated to go their own way out of frustration with working conditions, salary, or lack of advancement while others seized the chance to pursue long-delayed personal ambitions or simply take some time for self-improvement.
While The Great Resignation has been powered by a number of different motivations and goals, there is no denying that the scale of it has now reached the point where it is driving its own change. The old power equation between employer and employee has been turned upside down and in the new paradigm, many employees can dictate the most important terms of their professional relationships.
The shockwaves this reversal has caused can be felt in a number of ways, from recruitment processes to more careful consideration of employee retention policies and even re-examining fundamental business models.
But arguably the most consequential outcome of The Great Resignation has been the way employers have had to rethink old assumptions about their real estate needs and invest in the proper management of the spaces they use. Suddenly, there are new ways to calculate productivity, profitability, and overall efficiency. These new, so-called hybrid workspaces, where some workers are always present, some occasionally and others in between, have already moved from outlier to standard, and being smart about how to match office resources to demand has become mission-critical.
To illustrate the challenge here, let’s use an example of what happens when an organization fails to adapt to the needs of a hybrid office.
In a hybrid office without space management solutions, there is no way to accurately predict desk, meeting room, conference room and shared space needs on a daily basis without detailed (and often ignored) reservation policies that rarely work in practice. Especially in large offices, with occupancy rates swinging wildly from one day to the next as potentially hundreds of employees show up (or don’t show up) unexpectedly, space utilization will vary just as unexpectedly.
One day you need this much space, the next day twice as much, the day after that half as much. When employees have the freedom to work from the office as much as or little as they want, this issue is inevitable. And again, the bigger the office the more acutely the problem will be felt.
With a workspace management solution, it’s easier to not only make the most of the space you have but, using historical data, to rightsize your real estate commitments to fit your needs. No guesswork, no gut feelings — hard data that shows how your space is used every day.
Without a workspace management solution, you have no choice but to constantly walk a fine line between paying for space you’ll never use and constantly being threatened with running out of space with little or no notice, leaving frustrated employees to look for last-minute solutions or simply give up on their plans.
At a time when unprecedented numbers of professionals in every field have less anxiety about simply walking away from a job, can you afford to let something so minor and avoidable be the last straw that pushes someone to start thinking about life at another employer?
Or what about paying for expensive office space that doesn’t fit your actual needs?
These are simple questions to answer and that’s a big part of the reason why hybrid workspaces are turning to money-saving digital solutions for insights into occupancy rates and space utilization.
Applying the lessons learned from digital solutions to workspace issues doesn’t just pay off in terms of aligning real estate costs with real needs. Being better able to better plan office spaces for optimal use is suddenly a strong asset in employer responses to The Great Resignation.
Employers now see the value of transforming the office experience and making it more welcoming, more comfortable, and generally more desirable than in a traditional setting. There is a growing consensus that in-office work needs more of the comforts of remote work that so many millions of professionals have begun over the last couple of years. After all, unless there is a new, better, and more interesting office to go back to, why should anyone be interested?
This new planning might include things like abandoning the familiar one-person, one-desk arrangement in favor of shared spaces. Many modern workspaces are more dependent on spontaneous collaboration, short meetings, presentations to different-sized groups, and other arrangements that don’t work so comfortably with outdated approaches to seating arrangements and cubicles.
For employers that want more of their team to come into the office, it should be clear by now that you have to give them a good reason, and transforming the workspace with their comfort in mind is the best place to start.
This means using available technologies to reimagine and recreate workspaces. It means prioritizing employee well-being while in the office space, making their surroundings more comfortable, both physically and emotionally. An office environment may not be able to compete with an employee’s favorite comfy chair or kitchen table looking out over a garden, but it can be — it has to be — a place where they enjoy spending their time.
Otherwise, the sequel to The Great Resignation, whatever it will be called, will come sooner rather than later.
At Kontakt.io we build digital building services that help people secure the space, tools, and support they need to be productive in safe, sustainable indoor spaces. Thanks to these solutions, walking into a building and achieving your goals is more convenient and delivers a better experience. Learn more about our workspace solutions here or schedule a meeting with our team to find out how we can help you optimize your office space planning and management, improve health and wellness in your office, and improve your employees' experience.
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