What could the future of work look like in New Zealand?
63% of employees want to keep the option to alternate between different places of work in the future. With flexible working the expectation for staff, what's the future of the office?
In March 2020, businesses and workers moved almost overnight to implement new remote-working models. For many, this was their first taste of working-from-home life. During the initial months of lockdown, in conjunction with its alluring novelties—avoiding the commute, ditching the suit, a mid-afternoon walk, family time—there was much speculation that the future of the office was no longer. Then the realities set in. People discovered they actually missed the office. Now, as offices begin to buzz again, we’re presented with a new normal: clinging to some semblance of the old, while yearning for something different.
If you listen, a large majority of people say they don’t want to go back to the way things were – at least not entirely. For many, they would rather go back to something better than what they left.
The office is here to stay, believes Graham Kristiffor, Head of Auckland Office Leasing – but it needs to evolve. “People are social creatures. Across our global network, working remotely over an extended period took a mental toll on people.”
What’s happening in Auckland?
As New Zealand’s leading financial hub, Auckland’s city centre is at the heart of our economy. According to JLL’s Office Market Review (2022) there’s been a resurgence in corporates encouraging their staff to return to the office for productivity but, more importantly, employees seeking interaction with both colleagues and clients.
For professional service firms in particular, the office is becoming a place of focused collaboration, inspiration, and experience. As an extension of culture, the office is now a critical differentiator from competitors. Following initial uncertainties about physical offices, companies are utilising the opportunity to rethink their spaces as opposed to reducing their footprint.
The past few years have accelerated the trend for home working, while also revealing its limitations. As companies and employees continue to regain confidence for the office return, businesses are now facing some complicated decisions about their office space. Ahead, Graham Kristiffor shares his predictions for what the workplace will look like in the future.
Unsurprisingly, most people want to work from home to a degree. But they don’t want to work from home exclusively. For many organisations, the future workplace will involve some level of flexibility – but what that looks like will vary from business to business. “Evaluate what model works best for your company by looking at what worked well before the pandemic and during,” recommends Kristiffor.
63% of employees want to keep the option to alternate between different places of work in the future.
News ways of working
It’s been floated previously as a way to promote productivity and wellbeing, a four-day work week could reinvigorate the workplace post-pandemic. However, organisations will need to experiment with scheduling and policy to understand if and how it can work for them, says Kristiffor. For firms that decide to adopt a four-day week, clear guidelines for what’s expected of employees can help ease concerns of falling behind.
A hybrid model
A happy medium between the remote-first and office-centric model, there’s been a shift towards a hybrid way of working. Combining elements of in-office and remote styles, it offers employees the autonomy to choose to work wherever and however they are most productive. In a nutshell, a hybrid strategy is focused on collaboration that can only happen in-person while also championing flexible lifestyles.
What could this look like?
- Employees work in-office up to 80 percent of the time.
- Desks are 50-75 percent dedicated. Some desks may still be dedicated if they rely on tools or technology at their work point.
- The primary role of the office is now a collaboration space.
The three biggest challenges associated with hybrid working, according to HR leaders:
- Career progression
- Team working and collaboration
- Organisational culture
The office must be better than home
The workplace shouldn’t just be a place to tackle a to-do list. It’s a meeting point to come together where employees feel nurtured and a sense of belonging – like at home. “Ask your staff what they would like the office to look like,” suggests Kristiffor.
According to a survey of offices in the Regenerative Workplace report, employees are seeking out environments that are as comfortable as home. Relaxation spaces, healthy food services and outdoor areas top the list of amenities that can lure workers into their offices. Consider compelling and energetic spaces that aren’t obtainable at home. Look to cutting-edge tech companies for inspiration and execute this on a smaller scale. Bringing the best of working from home to the office, Amazon’s office features access to greenery and wide-open spaces for employees to disconnect and recharge on their break. “In terms of location, companies are relocating to prime positions with an abundance of food and beverage offerings and home-like amenities,” says Kristiffor.
An individual desk or personal workspace might not serve your employees the way it used to in the past. After increased periods of separation, people are craving connection – they want to gather, socialise, host clients and catch-up with their co-workers. An experience-led and technology enabled office in a convenient location is still the best place to do it. At Google, movable walls, team pods and digital whiteboards have replaced rows of desks to foster participation, along with capabilities to dial remote colleagues in, in line with a hybrid model.
Create a community
Work is fundamentally social – it’s a place where we fulfil our inherent need for connection. Research demonstrates a correlation between office space and community. Offices where relationships are facilitated, spaces are designed to inspire and leaders are present and accessible ultimately foster a greater sense of community. In turn, this enables higher productivity, engagement, retention and innovation. Work experiences where people feel shared purpose and identity in pursuit of common goals contribute to this positive culture.
Ultimately, it will be about the office but it will also be about more than that. Historically, the office has been a destination but now it must compete with home. Employers who don’t build a strategy around the desired work experience will struggle to recruit and retain top talent in their industry.
The biggest mistake we can make is to assume what we had before is sufficient to take us forward. The office needs to be a place people want to be and where they are fulfilled enough to do their best.
47% of the workforce say they are satisfied with their office today. This is a major drop compared with 63% satisfaction recorded a year ago. The office needs an in-depth redesign to match employees’ new expectations.