Evolution of modern workplace: balancing the return to office

Business Express - 15 November 2023
Niki Fuchs
3 min read
Published: 18 Dec 2023 2:41

A growing number of managers are advocating for a sustainable return to the traditional office environment. Notably, amidst the numerous return-to-office mandates issued by major corporations, Eric Yuan, CEO of Zoom, delivered an interesting perspective. In late August, Yuan emphasised the challenge of building trust online and asserted that all employees should attend the office at least three days a week.

With the passage of the Flexible Working Bill into UK law, the value of the office environment is transforming. The resistance to remote work underscores the value of the physical office, even in a post-pandemic era. However, intelligent businesses are beginning to recognise the continued importance of flexible work arrangements. Successful businesses will be defined by their ability to offer a balance between return-to-office mandates and accommodating the flexibility that employees now value so highly.

The dwindling allure of remote work

The recent comments made by Zoom’s CEO are intriguing in part because it is the experience of remote working that propelled Zoom to its current popularity as a remote working solution. Such pushback demonstrates that the standard office environment possesses an enduring appeal, even for the very company that was instrumental to the success of remote working.

A recent survey by Resume Builder revealed almost 90% of company managers aspire to make office work the norm once more by the end of 2024. This is primarily rooted in the belief that employees working from home are difficult to trust and oversee, leading to diminished business outcomes and control over employees. Just last month, Amazon demanded all employees return to the office at least three days a week, insisting that it was better for company culture and collaboration, promising that it “would not work out” for any employees who did not adhere to these new mandates. The threat of disciplinary action against employees who fail to fall in line highlights the value employers still place on the office environment.

Certainly, a flexible approach to returning to the office holds value for managers in terms of efficiency and trust, but it also carries benefits for employees.

A survey conducted by People Management found that nearly a third of workers valued the increased interaction with their peers afforded by a return to the office. This suggests there is a real sense of enthusiasm surrounding a return from remote work to a hybrid approach. The communal benefits of the office have been somewhat underappreciated, but with 80% of remote workers admitting to feelings of isolation and solitude, it is crucial to raise awareness of how a return to the office can be a positive development for both employees and employers.

Flexibility in the office environment

Despite this, it is imperative not to overlook the fact that remote work has reshaped business operations and remains immensely popular. More than 70% of businesses worldwide have imposed return-to-office mandates, however, in response, 42% have faced higher rates of employee attrition. Employees, even despite the potential drawbacks of remote work, value it’s flexibility, the improved work-life balance, and the elimination of the arduous commute. In response to managerial demands, employees have become increasingly resolute in defending what they see as one of their most essential privileges.

Serviced offices offer businesses carefully designed workspaces that balance the advantages of in-office and remote work, fostering an environment that encourages collaboration, team building, and well-being, while still embracing flexibility. These spaces are thoughtfully crafted with the understanding that the office environment must now ‘earn its commute’.

In our Office Space in Town (OSiT) buildings, ergonomic and adjustable desks are featured to promote good health and posture, addressing the potential negative impacts of extended remote work. Additional amenities including pay-as-you-go meeting rooms and breakout spaces, save businesses the costs of unused spaces while allowing individual employees the freedom to work in the manner which best suits them. With recreational amenities on site such as gyms and games rooms, serviced offices create vibrant workspaces that employees want to be in, as opposed to feeling obligated to be there.

Such features have contributed to a growing demand for flexible office spaces. In 2022, demand was 143% higher compared to pre-pandemic periods. This has continued into 2023, with businesses such as HSBC announcing significant downsizing projects, moving away from their traditional offices in favour of smaller, flexible spaces.

It is undeniable that the office environment possesses enduring value for both employees and managers. Simultaneously, it is impossible to ignore the transformative influence of remote work. Forward-thinking businesses must not reject remote work but should instead design their workplace to embrace its benefits in pursuit of greater employee satisfaction and trust. Flexibility will undoubtedly define the future of workplace operations.