The Future of the Office
Here at Officely we’ve helped a number of companies reopen their offices and in the process have accumulated a lot of interesting insights into the future of office-based work.
COVID has changed the way we work forever and has forced us to re-evaluate the purpose of the office. I’m sure you’ll agree with me that when you have deep focused work to do, you’re better off staying at home. So why are companies reopening their offices? What have they missed when working from home? We ask these questions a lot and hear the same answers time and again:
- Collaborative work - it’s really hard to replicate face to face collaboration remotely.
- Relationship building - how do new employees develop vital relationships across the organization if they never meet?
- Serendipitous conversations - so many innovations can be traced back to a chance conversation between colleagues from different teams, how do you replicate that online?
Not only are these the core values of the office, but they are also the core building blocks of a successful company. Without collaboration, strong relationships and serendipitous conversations, companies will never innovate. As such, we believe that the whole office experience should be redesigned to optimise for these 3 things, which is what we are doing at Officely.
In order to do this, we have discovered that the core principle is to make sure the right people are in the office together.
That might sound very simple, but let me illustrate the complexity using an example. Imagine there are two offices, Office A and Office B both are adopting a hybrid work strategy that allows their employees to work both from home and the office. Office A allows their employees to choose when they come in. Office B ensures that the right people are in the office together.
By allowing employees to choose which days they come into the office each employee starts to fall into habits. One employee might only come in on Tuesdays and Thursdays whereas another might only come in on Wednesdays and Fridays. These colleagues never overlap in the office, they never get the chance to build a relationship or have a serendipitous conversation. Over time more and more colleagues never overlap in the office and relationships go stale and innovation is stunted.
However, over in Office B they have taken a lot of care to ensure that not only everyone from the same team is in the office on the same day, but also that different teams overlap. For example, the sales team might overlap with the marketing team on one day and then the engineering team on another. This ensures that everyone in the organisation overlaps in the office regularly. No relationships go stale and there are plenty of opportunities to have serendipitous conversations.
Here at Officely we have been developing an AI scheduling tool that learns how an organisation works. It learns who needs to collaborate with who, and which teams work closely together. It combines the preferences of everyone across your organisation and then suggests the best days for each of your employees to go into the office to ensure your teams can collaborate effectively.
Hybrid work has the potential to change the way we work for the better, your employees can improve their work-life balance with less commuting and you can improve productivity, not to mention the real estate cost savings. However, if implemented incorrectly, it also has the potential to ruin collaboration and innovation across organisations.
To make this work you have to ensure the right people are in the office together.