This might seem strange for me to say this. Most people know that I'm a big fan of flexible working. I support it and I believe that it can have a huge and beneficial impact on the well-being of employees.
But that doesn't mean we have to ditch the office. The office remains very important. This is what this article is about.
The reason companies are embracing flexible working
Flexible working, as the name describes, is about giving employees the "flexibility" to decide when and where they want to work. This could be in the office or at home. They could start the day at 9am after breakfast or at midnight if they so wish to choose. They could be in their apartment in Geneva or in a ski chalet in Valais. They could even choose to work in their office 9-to-5, every day. The point is that the choice is theirs and this is what flexible working is about.
I believe tThere are lots of reasons why companies should embrace flexible working to be honest. It increases diversity in the workplace because it can accommodate a greater range of workers. These could be people that live far away, or have family commitments. It can also be better for mental health and even boost productivity.
This is what many of the candidates I meet want, due to these reasons. And many companies have been adjusting and offering more flexible working solutions. It allows them to attract these candidates and increases the talent pool that they can choose from.
Most employees still want to visit the office
Despite the popularity of flexible working, it would be a mistake to assume that workers want to ditch the office altogether. Many still want to visit the office from time-to-time.
Without the office, the social fabric of a company might be less tightly knit. The office provides an important meeting point where employees can meet face-to-face and discuss ideas or solve problems. Of course, they can do this virtually through a video conference call, but sometimes it's just more pleasurable to do things face-to-face.
The office is no longer a place that is defined by sitting at your desk and keeping your head down. It's also a place where socialising and interacting with colleagues can take place in an unstructured way. These social interactions can help deepen bonds, drive innovation and support a company's culture.
The office could become a clubhouse
Rather than disappear, the office will just evolve. Many companies have already started to rethink and redesign their workplace to meet the need for flexibility. Here are three possible ideas of what the future office might be like.
The clubhouse: In this scenario employees visit the office when they need to collaborate and return home when they need to focus on work. The office is a social hub. It's a place for people to meet, socialise and work together. This goes beyond having meetings. For me this is the Google model of the future office. It sounds fun.
The hub and spoke approach: Here, rather than travelling to one large office there could be multiple smaller satellite offices. Co-working spaces that are run by third parties could accommodate employees for the company, regardless of where they are based.
The hot desk culture: In the future, fixed and permanent desks might become less of a thing. Companies could embrace a hot desk culture, where you grab a desk when you turn up to the office now and again for meetings. The office is not necessarily a clubhouse, but just a place to meet.
Some companies have been doing this for years even before the pandemic. The benefit to the company is that it saves a significant amount of money by embracing flexible co-working culture – but more importantly it contributes to attracting more talents and increasing employee engagement..
The future of the office is in our hands
I think it's important to note that the future of the office depends on us. We need to decide how we want to use the office in the future. And, as we've discussed there are many options. What is certain is that the office is not going to disappear any time soon. It is still very valuable, depending on how you use it.