A recent BBC survey neatly highlighted the situation we find ourselves in as more workers start to return to the office.
While 70% of people think workers will not return to the office full time, half of managers said workers remaining at home would have an impact on collaboration and creativity, compared with just 38% of the general public.
However, as Property Week reported recently, physical workplace attendance soared in early September with occupation rates of up to 40% to 60% (p7, 10.09.21).
It is still too early to make firm predictions, but what is certain is that businesses will have to adapt to persuade at least some staff to return to the workplace. While employees may argue they can be just as productive working from home, businesses still thrive best on some face-to-face interaction.
So, how can offices entice workers back? PwC, for example, is tempting workers with a £1,000 bonus. Subsidised gyms and healthcare have been ‘nice-to-haves’, but I predict they will become expected as the norm by prospective employees. Free food and free travel could be next on the list.
Offices also need to provide more of an experience rather than just offering a ‘place to be’. Employers can look to the physical retail sector for inspiration. In the face of online shopping, physical retail property has become more experiential to tempt shoppers to return. For example, the London store of fashion brand Browns includes augmented reality technology where customers can try on clothes, an outdoor courtyard and a relaxation space.
In this vein, Google is introducing innovations including a hot desk that responds to personal preferences – employees swipe their pass on entry and when they arrive at a workstation the desk automatically adjusts to their height with saved photos of their family flashing up. Outdoor ‘meeting teepees’, allowing fresh air to circulate, are replacing stuffy meeting rooms.
Office space needs to adapt to meet these changing times, and the businesses that adapt the best are the ones that will thrive the most.
Louise Dixon Chapman is director of Workplace at McBains