The functionality of the work environment is more prominent than ever in the minds of many decision makers. Now, questions about what kind of work culture our company will have in the future and which working methods best serve our purposes are being carefully considered. At the same time, we are also weighing what proportion of work should be done at the office and how much can be done remotely in the future. As we have all found, there is no correct answer to these questions. Every company must recognize the methods that best suit their needs and strive to forge their own path into the future.
Regardless of our plans, the past months have heightened our need to operate in new ways, and we have been forced to think about matters concerning our work environment from a new perspective. The fact that many aspects are out of our control only adds to the challenges the situation presents. Uncertainty and lack of information still dominate the situation many companies now find themselves in.
From the perspective of a work environment expert, however, the coronavirus pandemic has not significantly affected the root causes of change in companies or the need for that change to take place. Even under normal circumstances, every company should actively develop their work culture and environment. I believe that what were a company’s weaknesses before have only been amplified many times over, as have its strengths. Qualities that made us a good company have only been strengthened and will give us a greater competitive advantage in the future.
Many are considering making a gradual return to the office, and some have already made that transition. I also know many who worked from the office for the entire duration of the crisis. The variation in people’s working methods, personal feelings and sense of safety is enormous, and any good decision maker must take that into account. It is important that people’s basic needs are met at the workplace and that returning to the office feels good and worthwhile. Every workplace should now be asking themselves why people want to come to the office. What makes our office functional and unique?
“The most self-evident thing in the world suddenly felt like a luxury”
I myself returned gradually to the office some time ago. What left a particularly strong impression on me from my first day back was being able to have lunch at the restaurant on our campus. I ate a delicious meal, after which I returned the dishes to be washed by someone else. Suddenly, things that I normally would have taken for granted felt like luxuries. I realized what separates being at the office from being at home: I don’t have to do everything myself. Every day, I can enjoy a number of services that I had barely even considered before.
Another significant difference to working from home were the high-quality, ergonomic workstations. Over the last months, an old pain in my back has begun to make a return. It is wonderful to have an employer who considers things like this on our behalf and offers us everything we need to do our work in a healthy manner.
The third and likely greatest positive difference in comparison to working from home were the colleagues working with me at the office. How happy I was to have the company of three colleagues at the workplace that day! I enjoy meeting other people and a sense of solidarity is important to me. Recently, I have suffered from an oversaturation of virtual interaction and come to understand how important other people are to me. Not many people are capable of staying creative and innovative indefinitely when sitting alone in front of a computer screen. Bouncing ideas off others and working together towards a common goal strengthens team spirit but also often leads to better results.
I believe that the workplaces of the future will consider, first and foremost, the wellbeing of the people there and what gets them to work in the most efficient way possible. Individuals’ freedom of choice and self-management will become central. People will need to take greater responsibility for their own use of resources, but at the same time, employers will be expected to make greater contributions towards functional, high-quality work environments. There is an old phrase that is very prescient now and will remain prescient in the future too: “quality over quantity”.
In the future, office spaces will likely be more compact, but they will also be better thought out and offer people something that differs from what they are accustomed to. People will mainly come to the office to meet each other face-to-face, brainstorm and maintain team spirit. With modern digital tools and new work rules, productive work can be done flexibly from several different locations, which is steering us to optimize our resources in a more general sense as well. In the future, we will think first and foremost about what makes sense from the perspective of the individual, the company and even our environment.
Tiia Rauhamäki works for Technopolis as a Concept Manager and Workplace Transformation Specialist. Tiia’s special interests include human beings, workspace functionality and wellbeing at work.
If you are interested in developing your working environment, you can use the form below to download our free work environment planning guide. The guide includes information such as how to start building a functional work environment. If you feel you need support in developing your work environment, you can also contact us directly. We have completed highly successful work environment projects for several of our client companies, and we would be happy to tell you more.