Future focus: Will the office survive the pandemic?

Will we travel to the office in the future or will we continue to work from home and only meet our colleagues digitally? The workplace strategists at Coor Advisory are convinced that the office will still have an important role to play—as an attractive meeting place for innovation and building relationships.

To be or not to be—that is the question that many are now asking themselves about the office. But the answer isn’t so black and white according to Josefine Mordenfeld, Head of Coor Advisory, Coor’s unit for developing the workplaces of the future.

“The office will continue to exist in the future, but the reason people go there will change slightly. Employees will probably go to the office because they want to and need to, not because they have to or because that’s what they’ve always done. Flexibility will be key and most people will work from home, in the office, and other places entirely to varying degrees.

Josefine Mordenfeld and her team have closely followed developments during the pandemic, and people’s reactions to how the way we work is changing.

“To begin with, most people felt that working from home worked well, the attitude was that the pandemic would soon be over. But during the fall, when the pandemic had continued for more than six months, the home office didn’t feel quite as functional anymore.

According to Josefine Mordenfeld, working from home works best for people with access to their own workspace, and good equipment and the right digital tools.  

“Many in this group consider that their work-life balance has improved, with more time for family and leisure interests. For these people, stress has decreased, and many in urban areas have saved up to two hours in travelling time each day. They also appreciate the flexibility of working from home, as they can decide for themselves when and where to work.

For others, working from home has been far more challenging.

“Some people use the workplace as an important social platform, and they miss going to the office. The kind of working environment you have at home is also important, of course. Young people, who often live in small apartments, have to share their workspace with other people and may find it harder to achieve the quiet needed for digital meetings. They are the least satisfied with working from home.

What is it that people tend to miss about the office?

“The energy generated by meeting with others, by being able to have a cup of coffee together, talk things over and be inspired! We believe that in future it will still be necessary to provide physical workspaces where people can meet, as they promote collaboration and build and maintain the corporate culture. Companies need to focus on providing attractive offices that employees want to spend time in, otherwise they risk the well-being, commitment and cohesion of heir employees, which has a negative impact on productivity.”

According to Josefine Mordenfeld, the workplace is most important to newly recruited staff and those that have recently joined the workplace, as studies show that knowledge transmission is most effective when we meet in person.

So what will the offices of the future look like?

“The offices of the future will be an omni channel experience, that is a seamless and integrated experience that covers both digital working methods and the physical office. It’s important that you feel at home and get the same experience and impression of your organization regardless if logging in on the computer or travelling in to work.”

Those still working in cell offices will need to rethink their approach and shift to more flexible working methods to satisfy expectations from employees and retain cost efficient offices, Josefine Mordenfeld explains.

“We also believe in the physical workspace as a service, an experience and a culture bearer. We expect to see businesses allocating more resources and energy to ensuring this in future.”

But Josefine Mordenfeld and her team emphasize that there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

“It’s entirely down to the type of organization and staff. A company with many young new recruits won’t get all that much out of only working digitally, they might need to distribute home-office work 30/70 percent, with the emphasis on the office. For companies with a pronounced digital focus and a global approach, it might be better to do the opposite and base most of the work in the home.

We will work from home to a greater extent in future, which will accelerate existing workplace trends.


Health & wellbeing

Security, balance in your day-to-day life and opportunities for recovery are now higher up on the agenda of our working lives.  This is what you need to take into account when designing the workplace and its service offering.

Digital leadership

The leaders of the future need to be able to create a sense of belonging and culture remotely.
Leadership will take new forms—less focus on methods and more on goals and results.

Flexibility

Flexibility will become the new normal—both in terms of employee working hours, working methods and where the work is carried out, but also in terms of how the office is designed and the services it provides.

Experience

The office as a service
More companies are investing in first class environments with even higher service levels where employees go to meet both social and practical needs.

The office as an experience
The physical office will become more of a creative arena for innovation and building relationships with workspaces that promote this.

The office as culture bearer
It will become critical for the physical office to reflect both the corporate culture and brand in order to attract and retain talent.

Data & Technology

Companies and organizations will invest even more in IT solutions and IT security, smart solutions that simplify work and everyday life for employees.

Sustainability

Now that we’ve directly experienced the impact of our behavior on the climate—in this case the consequences of reduced air travel—more people will increasingly demand sustainable workplaces.