Flexible working is not a trend and it’s not a phase – it’s here to stay. The companies that have accepted this and that have excelled at creating productive flexible work environments will reap the benefits in productivity, retention and collaboration.
Spotify, Airbnb, Atlassian and Lyft all have optional ‘work from home forever’ policies in place now. Spotify has even told employees it is happy to pay for them to work out of co-working spaces if the employees move to a new neighbourhood or miss being in the workplace and around people. People crave connection, even in the workplace, and this is so much harder to come by when working from home becomes permanent.
The importance of a separation between the home and the office, particularly for those who experienced protracted lockdowns, should not be underestimated.
This does not mean, however, that there are two clear options and ways forward – it does not boil down to a competition between going back to the office full time or working from home forever. If anything, the debate around the future of the office is old news.
Recent data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has illuminated how the British workforce is embracing hybrid working in the aftermath of the pandemic.
The ONS statistics revealed that the percentage of people working from home exclusively had fallen to 14% in May 2022.
People want to spend time in the office to feel part of something bigger than the daily grind
In contrast to this, the proportion of those embracing hybrid working was growing, with more than eight in 10 people saying they planned to hybrid-work in 2022.
Flexible working by its nature offers spaces that promote collaboration, holistic wellness and interaction. These are all things people struggled to attain or maintain when working from home full time. At Huckletree, our central ethos is in creating ecosystems that benefit all members and are optimum spaces for personal and professional development – two things that are much harder to achieve if you are never working in the office.
In February 2022, only 8% of people said they intended to work in the office full time. Here, the numbers are reflecting the demand we are seeing for hybrid spaces and will prove that successfully catering to employees’ wants around flexibility will be a significant positive contributor to staff satisfaction, retention and wellbeing. In fact, the ONS data reported that more than three quarters of people (78%) who had embraced hybrid working in some capacity said their work-life balance had improved.
JLL has maintained that it expects to see flexible space represent 30% of the office market by 2030. We see this demand clearly reflected at Huckletree, where our spaces are at 93% occupancy. More than this, our configurations are evolving as more corporates, enterprise teams and scale-ups want flexible options that complement hybrid and innovative ways of working.
Creating an office space – with a good building, nice furniture and desks to work at – is no longer enough. People want to spend time in the office because they want to feel part of something bigger than the daily grind – the theatre of office socialising and collaboration, but above all, a community.
Gabriela Hersham is co-founder and chief executive of Huckletree