This week’s webinar in the UnWork Series was based around the theme of ‘Unthinkable’. For many companies, the wholescale transition to working from home would have been unthinkable just six months ago. While for some it remains a struggle, many are successfully adapting and overcoming challenges that previously seemed unsurmountable. As the conversation gradually turns towards coming back into our offices, the question is, do we really want to?
With an ongoing survey from Spacelab about how people are feeling about work under the current restrictions, Kara Carter from Spacelab and Sasha Tinson were in discussion about how we might use this to positively reshape the future of work place and practice. The top ten takeaways are outlined below.
- Impact on productivity and happiness: The survey found that people were 35% more productive, 39% about the same and 25% less productive when working from home compared to being in the office. There was a bigger impact on happiness, with 45% happier at home, 29% about the same and 26% not as happy.
- Losing the commute: The most common factor linked to the increase in happiness was the lack of commute, giving people – in many cases – a significant amount of time back in their day. Could this reshape our working practices in the longer term – or even urban planning?
- Let us stay (some of the time): Where people have made working from home work for them, there’s a strong appetite for continuing to do so – at least some of the time. Almost half of the survey participants want to continue working from home 2 or 3 days a week, with their biggest concern for any return to the office the loss of flexibility and autonomy.
- Interaction and collaboration: While people enjoy the autonomy, they also (mostly) miss their colleagues. First and second on the list of what people were missing were socialising with colleagues and collaborating, putting social interaction high on the agenda for the return to work.
- Layers of space: The impact of increased working from home in the longer term may mean a layered approach to space, with the office as a branded hub that supports the business community, company culture, interaction and visitor experience. Wrapped around that are core or specialist facilities, places to connect, and a variety of spaces that support the ability of people to work as they choose.
- Creative use of space: A shift in working practices might mean that less space is needed, but not all occupiers have the opportunity to release space in the short term. This might mean some creative uses of space, with people making what they have work harder for them – or subletting to create increasingly diverse building mixes.
- A spoke and hub approach: While no one seemed to be missing the commute, working from home isn’t straightforward for everyone, with distractions for housemates or family the most significant challenge. Will this lead to new strategies about how corporate space is distributed – for example, new local community hubs that support employees in their home area, whether owned or part of an existing coworking framework?
Rise in collaboration technology: Many companies are in the midst of a significant shift to virtual collaboration, with lots of new tools emerging to ease that transition. In addition to the general players such as Slack or Atlassian, we’re likely to see the emergence of new tools and platforms that support sector specific needs.
- An altered mindset: Many companies are seeing this as an opportune moment to revisit working practices and workspace needs, accelerating changes that might have been seen as too bold six months ago. As with last week’s webinar discussion, it may be difficult to completely reel back on the changes that have had to be made; equally, this could be a rich opportunity to try something new.
- Space at home: Not many people said that they had dedicated workspace at home; while people are making the short-term adjustments that they need, the long-term implication may be a change in how we design homes in the future. Will study space become part of the planning agenda?
Overall, the current crisis has pushed many of us to think the unthinkable and drive shifts in working practices at an unprecedented rate of change, pushing the boundaries of how people might have approached real estate strategies under more regular circumstances. The long-term implications have yet to be seen, but there does seem an opportunity to use this momentum to drive real change – what do you think?
If you have questions about the future of work and workplace design – or any of the specific themes raised in the discussion – please feel free to reach out to:
Spacelab: Kara Carter – Director
The survey is still live for anyone who wants to take part – Spacelab are offering to give back five minutes of their time to people who will benefit post-lockdown (the approximate time taken to complete it) for anyone who takes part here.