How to plan your return to the office

Create a workplace that works for your people

Most companies expect to be back in the office in 2022
The office has a renewed purpose
Tech tools can drive employee experience and streamline operations

The office will look different in the future. Organizations that welcome employees back safely and take the opportunity to re-examine their workplace will succeed in the long run. Some have already committed to the office to increase collaboration, innovation and growth for the business and employees. Others are looking ahead to figure out their workplace strategy and how to best grow and inspire their employees at work. Regardless of where you are in your planning process, we have resources to help you get started. 

Here are three action items to consider:

1.  Bring employees back to the office safely

Health and safety are top priorities for people as they go back to the office, but there are many safeguards that help create a safer and healthier return. Consider who is coming in and how often; workplace models should be built to shift. Tracking employee attendance and space use patterns from the moment you return can help guide your short-and long-term strategies. Prepare your space to ensure employees feel seen and heard, and remain willing to return on a regular basis. Many industries and companies across the United States are ready to bring their employees back, at least some of the time. Where does your city rank in terms of re-entry?

To successfully bring your employees back, begin by answering the following questions: 

  • What safety, seating and operational needs will arise if 50 percent of your workforce is regularly back in the office? What about 75 percent and 100 percent? 
  • Will you need flex space or third-party locations to balance employee options?
  • What capital spending is needed to safely support the workforce? 

If you don’t yet have a plan in place, our playbook for a future-focused workplace can be tailored to your unique business purpose, or you can learn what we did to bring our own employees back to the office safely. Once you’ve hit your stride in getting back to the office, it’s time to optimize and prepare your real estate for the long term. 

2.  Design a workplace that best supports your business and people

Once you have people back in the office, think about what short- and long-term updates you might need. Consider creating a new workplace strategy that accommodates what your employees need and the work they do. How can you ensure they will be productive regardless of where they work? Do you need to revamp your office to enhance collaboration spaces?

In the past, individual desks took up an average of 65 percent of most office space. As companies move toward a more flexible model, that number is expected to fall to about 40 percent. You now have an opportunity to repurpose your space to meet new expectations and use it as a tool to attract and retain the right talent.

Offices are becoming purposeful and flexible. Many companies already embraced mobility or flex-space ahead of the pandemic, and hybrid work is here to stay. Use that as the starting point in returning to the office. To get it right in the short-term, align your company needs to the following types of workplace models: 

  • Office-centric is the preference of companies that believe their strong culture is built and fueled by in-office collaboration 
  • Hybrid works for companies focused on innovation that can only happen in person, while also championing and supporting flexible lifestyles and personal choice of workspaces for their people 
  • Remote-first fits companies focused primarily on cost savings with a culture that allows for flexibility and independent working with occasional in-person work or flex space options 

Great office environments bring a company’s best to its clients and employees. Done correctly, collaborative and purposeful offices add extra value as social and innovation hubs. It is essential that your office re-entry plan serves your unique business needs for employees and clients. 

Regardless of which workplace strategy is best for your organization, the physical office space must be commute-worthy for employees. Office design needs to embrace the changing needs of your employees, such as increased amenities, space for health and wellness, and areas for socializing and collaboration. Because this new open space will be less dense—and may even need to accommodate a growing staff—chances are, you’ll need to lease just as much as before. You’ll just use it differently. 

3. Invest in technology that enhances the workplace experience

Technology is assisting in re-entry and reshaping the modern office, and companies that use it to create smarter spaces will gain a competitive edge. Investments in technology can help organizations make data-driven decisions about real estate, help create a workplace built for employees’ needs and improve performance.

Some specific ways in which technology can transform your workplace include: 

  • Using data to optimize your real estate footprint 
  • Assessing your hybrid work plan and creating a better employee experience, regardless of location 
  • Generating automated reservations and re-entry service requests 
  • Reserving desks and using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to track office usage 
  • Leveraging sensors and AI to gather real-time data on how your space is being used 

The positive impacts of a technology-enabled workplace on the employee experience, including increased collaboration, boosted productivity, and streamlined operations, can give any organization a leg-up in attracting and keeping talent. 

We help companies of all sizes identify the strategies that allow your company and your employees to thrive. Contact us to learn more about how you can get set up for success in the future.