COVID-19 Response & Business Continuity Plan »

March 10, 2022

Returning to Work: Office Trends for a Healthier, Happier Workforce

Companies are learning that returning to the office isn’t as simple as re-opening their doors. For maximum employee engagement, offices need to be places that make people eager to return.

A McKinsey study found that ​​over 50 percent of employees want to continue working from home for three or more days a week, and 30 percent of employees would switch jobs if forced to return to fully on-site work.

These trends highlight a significant shift in workplace priorities, and most companies have already begun reconfiguring their offices to adapt to their team’s new needs. The right redesign can boost morale, improve productivity and protect against contagious viruses like the flu.

Here are eight ways a business can restructure its office space for an optimal return to in-person work.

Bring home to work.

Organizational experts told NPR that in-person work would attract employees only if the office addresses their physical and psychological needs. Now is the time to think about how your office can encourage work-life balance and emphasize employee well-being.

Some companies have tackled the challenge by incorporating home features into their offices, such as adding state-of-the-art gyms and expanded kitchens for productivity breaks. Integrating wellness amenities into a company headquarters demonstrates that mental and physical health are internal priorities.

Reimagine conference rooms.

As Zoom meetings reign supreme, businesses are ditching traditional conference rooms. Instead, conference rooms are becoming spaces for collaboration or remote meetings to support new hybrid-work schedules.

Reconfiguring an office to have fewer conference rooms can create space for downsizing businesses and companies with more remote workers. Replace conventional furniture with flexible, movable seating so the room can serve multiple purposes.

Increase outdoor space.

When the pandemic first hit, moving gatherings outside was key to minimizing the spread of the virus. But beyond the safety benefits, studies also show the great outdoors improve moods, reduce inflammation, increase energy and lower stress levels.

Companies with patios can increase the accessibility of those spaces by allowing workers to reserve outdoor spots for meetings or everyday tasks. For more closed offices, simply opening windows and relying on natural light can help employees stay grounded.

Add telecommuting technology.

Remote work is here to stay, so every office will need to have the technological capabilities to link in-person and work-from-home staff. Start by investing in personal phones and laptops for employees to navigate hybrid schedules seamlessly.

Equip the office with electronic whiteboards, noise-canceling headphones and high-quality cameras so employees can catch up with dispersed team members.

Create diverse seating options.

Nearly 60 percent of employees want workspace in their offices, according to JLL. Every office should contain different areas to support focused work, team collaboration, clarity breaks, socialization and private calls.

Create more space between desks by embracing open-floor plans and removing file cabinets or other paper records. Instead of assigning desks, operate on a reservation-based system that allows employees to freely switch between seating options depending on their needs for the day.

Organize by project, not department.

Before the pandemic, businesses often organized their offices by department, accompanied by private offices for managers. However, today employees may live in different locations than other coworkers in their department, making the traditional office layout obsolete.

Allow employees to choose seats apart from their direct coworkers and reports. Organize the office to accommodate project-based work, which may involve teams of two or 20.

Keep pandemic-era health stations.

Throughout the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that employers increase the distance between desks, improve the air-circulation systems and add sanitization stations to their offices.

As COVID-19 case counts drop across the country, these recommendations stay the same. Maintaining health protocols can protect employees from colds, the flu and other bugs that circulate so quickly through workplaces.

Abandon corner-office culture.

Receiving a corner office used to be the highest form of praise in a workplace, but that may no longer be the case today. Corner offices can hinder communication and collaboration between a dispersed workforce. Transform those spaces into reservation-based phone booths and meeting rooms for employees who need a moment alone.

Work preferences will continue to change as the dust settles from this pandemic, so it’s vital to maintain an office that can pivot at a moment’s notice. Build flexibility into your office layout to ensure it meets employees’ varying needs over time.

Are you relocating or renovating your office? Armstrong – Atlanta is here to help. Our teams are experts in reducing risk, downtime, liability and disruptions to your business during times of transition. Get started by calling 770.368.0368 or requesting a free quote online

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