Opinion piece by Bernard De Cort, partner of Tailor & Foster

If there is something truly positive about the pandemic, it is the evolution of working remotely. Becoming digital nomads, if you will. But where do we draw the line when it comes to outline a future work environment?

Never waste a good crisis, Winston Churchill said. So why should we. Although, I must warn you for those self-claimed experts or workspace gurus who declare that office environments should be reduced to “collaborative office spaces only”.

What drives these experts and gurus to make those kind of statements? Is it to reduce costs, as a sole purpose? I have encountered many extreme thinking patterns these last 25 years in the field of independently advising and developing work environments. From open-plan offices, to the creation of landscape offices, to even open-plan flex spaces with “concentration bubbles”, “isolation cockpits”, and so on. As you can imagine, the list does not – and will not – end there.

When it comes to the future, one needs to think efficiently while having a clear vision towards the near and distant future. The previously mentioned work environment trends have proven to work even counterproductive.

What happens to the well-being of your team?

Did those office trends really reduce your costs on the long run? Is your building suitable for the future development of your organisation, or even industry? Time to clear out the many dangers of these so-called container solutions.

When it comes to your work environment, there is no such thing as a “one size fits all”.

Back to the working remotely evolution. It is not a trend; it is a movement. It has been growing into an undeniable way of working. For many years, I have been advocating for this approach, as it has a large number of benefits.

Nevertheless, there are still some major points that need our attention. A large group of the active population does not have the right resources to work remotely or yearn for the social contact they receive at work. Think towards the literal lack of space in their home, a distraction due to housemates, a substandard indoor climate, to even inadequate network connection. On the social side, there are a multitude of benefits from maintaining a healthy work-life balance by physically going to the office. Others see the work environment as part of their social life, or are more motivated when working at the office. Let’s not forget the support, guidance and training that unknowingly – and knowingly – happens in work environments.

Recent studies have shown that an average of 65% of the working population prefers to implement a hybrid working solution. The other 35% are divided into two divergent groups: those who want to work at the office every day, and 12% who would rather work remotely on a permanent base. 

Nevertheless, it remains paramount that we involve the latter 12% into the organisation by integrating their physical presence into the work process, on a regular basis. If this is disregarded, chances are they will become remotely detached. When stimulating that informal contact, a breeding ground for innovation is fostered. Innovation usually – most of the time accidentally – arises when colleagues cross-pollinate at the office.

And when it comes to reducing costs, let us not reduce the quality of the work environment. There are other, more sustainable, ways to reduce the costs of a work environment on the long run. It boils down to implementing ingenuity and experience.

In conclusion, the next steps of your work environment are far greater than merely constructing a collaborative space. It is a place where valuable, motivated and committed employees can thrive. It is a place where sustainable achievement is enhanced, in the best comfort, with the best possible amenities, and …in complete safety.

The office remains, after all, an environment of well-being.

Don’t you think?

Bernard De Cort
Tailor & Foster

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