How Organizations Can Prepare For The Future of The Workplace
Expert Panel

11 Experts Weigh In On How Organizations Can Prepare For The Future of The Workplace [2021]

Jul 23, 2021

Raydiant’s Future of Workspace Series featured interviews with experts and professionals to learn more about how the workplace experience will evolve.

You likely don’t have time to read every interview so we’ve pulled together some of our favorite answers:

Zoë Morris, President of Frank Recruitment Group and Mason Frank International

Zoë MorrisIf preparation is half the battle, then the best weapons companies have in this case are its present and its past. Many companies have learnt their lessons the hard way in the past, but using these as your foundations to build a strong contingency plan is key.

Always be prepared for the unlikely, and most importantly, keep yourself up to date with the latest developments to adjust your plans accordingly. Do not be afraid to invest in the future, whether that’s tech investment or workforce investment. Finally, embrace this transformation. As we’ve seen in the past months, the companies which were able to survive and thrive were those who adapted swiftly to change; that’s something that is unlikely to change in the future.

Yordi Smit, Sales Manager at spacehuntr

Organizations can LISTEN to their teams. What do they want? Work remote, in-person, or a combination of the two. Employers should not demand people to return to the office but rather offer options to meet individual needs.

The mental strain which people across the globe have experienced during the pandemic, can not be ignored and employers will need to take on a flexible and understanding position towards their teams.

There is no ‘old normal’ anymore, just a new one. Companies that acknowledge this, those who will remember the lessons of this pandemic, will prevail.

Lauren Leach, Director and Commercial Real Estate Expert, Conway MacKenzie, Part of Riveron

Lauren LeachTo prepare for the new future, organizations should be focused on rolling out a flexible workplace model, making updates to office space to entice physical presence, and investing in technology for both the workplace and for professionals to work from home. This is a competitive labor market, and employee satisfaction in the workplace will become increasingly reliant on a progressive workplace design. Companies can demonstrate that employees are valuable by providing workplace flexibility, and by supporting employees with proper mobile and collaboration technologies and adaptable workplace environments.

An equipped, future-focused workplace will help companies win through employee satisfaction and retention. By contrast, companies that do not adapt to the new reality and revert to pre-pandemic ways of working will fall behind in the competition for workers; this will negatively impact ability to meet customer needs and weaken a company’s overall brand and viability.

Teresha Aird, Founder & CMO at Offices.net

Teresha AirdThe number one thing that I would suggest for organizations looking to prepare for the future is to communicate with employees in order to gauge the level of interest in permanent remote work practices. It’s important to recognize that each organization is different and that some industries suit hybrid and remote working schedules a lot more than others.

Communicating with employees to see how they feel and comparing these feelings against results is a vital step towards determining the path to follow. I would also suggest that organizations explore a wide variety of options when looking to shift into new office spaces, with the range of workspace solutions currently on offer being the most diverse ever.

Dave Herman, President of General Indemnity Group and EZ Surety Bonds

Dave HermanOrganizations must be prepared for an overall digital transformation. Not just having an online presence or turning brick-and-mortar stores into an eCommerce store, but a complete digital transformation; from business processes, marketing efforts, and even the workplace. Companies should start looking for tools that will help them streamline their businesses.

They should also start evaluating which positions should be required to be physically present and which ones are okay to work remotely. Businesses should start understanding the needs of their employees as well, apart from just focusing on how to grow their business. Apart from that, companies should start to embrace and accept the digital space (internet) and use it to their advantage as the internet has so many opportunities it can provide to all kinds of organizations. 

Isaac Smith, Marketing Operations Specialist, FreeAgent CRM

Isaac SmithFirst, Invest in technology. The next-generation of remote work software is already here. The faster you get your team on board the faster you can begin to see what changes your company will have to make to stay competitive. If you think things are going to go back to the way they were before you are mistaken and delaying a year to see what happens will leave you way behind.

Secondly, trust your team. We have learned a lot about the employee agency this year and the numbers have shown that productivity doesn’t require as much oversight as we once thought. The next generation of employees that are now entering the workforce are looking for different things out of a job than our parents. In order to maximize your recruitment potential, creating a performance culture that is based around employee agency is a must. 

Lastly, now is also the time to begin reimaging your work space. What do you NEED it to be? Some things cannot be done remotely and that is what the focus should be on. Imagine the benefits of a smaller space and let go of past expectations. 

Nick Iovacchini, CEO of KettleSpace

Nick IovacchiniIt all starts with accepting the fact that this is going to be an evolving landscape filled with discovery and adjustments. Companies that will do this well, will really lean into that concept. This change is so big and so new, that no company is going to get it perfectly right on their first pass. The key is to establish clarity — what’s a choice, what’s a rule, gather the right data, test, learn, communicate, and iterate. 

Not having goals in place and the ability to track and measure the right data with respect to the hybrid model is probably the biggest pitfall we see. Organizations must have access to insights on where/when people are working so they can optimize for the best blend of hybrid to meet engagement and productivity goals. Ultimately, hybrid is designed to benefit an organization, either through happier, safer and more productive employees, cost savings on real estate and physical space, or in other ways. But organizations must have a rubric in place to make sure their hybrid model is tracking back to key objectives and delivering ROI.

Leslie Saul, President of Leslie Saul & Associates, Inc

Leslie SaulI think it would really benefit companies to get to know their employees better.  What are their living situations like?  Do they prefer working from home or do they prefer working at the office with just a little flexibility for days when you feel like staying home or coming to the office? What kind of work do they like doing best from home? The rule of thumb has been unsupervised work that requires concentration is better at home, and collaborative work is better at the office, but perhaps some people would prefer doing emails and calls from home, and work that requires concentration at the office. 

I think the days of hard and fast rules are behind us. Saying that the workplace is flexible, but then assigning days in the office, or hours of work, will tell employees that you are not committed to the concept of flexibility.  Trust your workers to know what they need….and find out what that is! Find out what their goals and ambitions are.  Some people just want a job to pay the rent. Others are passionate about work and want to develop a career.  Employers need to know that. I am not talking about an annual review, but an on-going discussion to keep up with employees as they change over time.  That will lead to engagement, a strong culture, and the attachment to a company that will ensure its future success. Everyone reaps the benefits of a happy and engaged workforce.

Jeremy Ellis, Co-founder & Chief innovator at LaunchPad

Jeremy EllisAs the new normal sets in, organizations would have to face challenges in order for their workforce to smoothly transition from completely remote work to a hybrid model.

Proper strategies for effective communication will need to be implemented, which would allow remote employees to easily collaborate with those in the office.

Part of the workforce that returns to the office would need to be trained for the new work culture.

Ginny Caldwell, Director of Interior Design, Southeast Venture

Leaders of organizations are already thinking and starting to implement changes, based on the trends above. It’s already playing out that there are employees who don’t want to come back to the office, which indirectly affects how a space is designed and how work gets done.

However, from a design standpoint, there’s no replacement for the energy that a space can give its employees – allowing for collaboration and spontaneity. Run-ins at the coffee machine or water filler can be so important for office culture. Quarantine showed us that we can still collaborate at home, but that requires meetings to be more scheduled and structured. Companies need to be thinking about how to maintain that feeling of togetherness even if employees are more spread out. However, not every industry needs this kind of collaboration, like accounting or finance, so it definitely depends on the company. 

Companies already are redefining their work from home and remote work policies. With that, they need to prepare for remote onboarding – how do you connect a new employee with the company culture if they’re not there with everyone? This has been made easier, and will continue to become easier, with Zoom and collaboration technology. It overall speaks to the fact that COVID has changed how we approach work schedules, teamwork and physical workspaces, and I think that will have a lasting impact.

Tonya Dybdahl, Space Planning and Design Manager for National Business Furniture

Tonya DybdahlListen to experts but don’t forget about employee opinions. The internet is a rich source of information and a great place to start, but nothing can top personalized expert advice. Consult a space planner, interior designer, or salesperson that specializes in commercial interiors. This guidance will consider any of your unique circumstances and you might find some unexpected solutions that online guides don’t always provide. If you’re still in an all-employee WFH period, get moving on an office refresh that will be ready by the time that employees make their way back.

As you make these changes, ask for employee feedback to gauge the needs of individuals, departments, and the workforce at large. You might find that your proposed changes might hinder productivity rather than enhance it or perhaps you’ll stumble upon creative solutions you hadn’t considered. Clear communication is never a bad thing. While you finalize your plans, let the organization know about what new and exciting changes are soon to come.

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