Return to Office Strategy - design and technology considerations
Hybrid workplace

Return to Office Strategy - design and technology considerations

Mandates or continued flexibility, companies are grapling with how to roll-out their Return to Work strategies to encourage office attendance and in-person collaboration.

August 16, 2023

Trending in the news is the ongoing challenge employers are facing while trying to coax employees back into the office.

In a situation where complete flexibility is deemed no longer favourable, adopting a rigid, company-mandated approach is presenting its own set of complexities. A poignant example of this made headlines when Zoom faced internal backlash after suddenly summoning its Sydney-based staff back to the office, highlighting the shortfalls of a one-size-fits-all approach.

In an era where remote work has become commonplace, making the office an appealing destination is vital to motivate employees to invest time in their daily commutes. This article explores how employers are carefully curating employee-centric office spaces complemented by technology for an employee experience that's worth the journey, with or without mandates.

Benefits of remote work vs. office commute

When remote working was suddenly made mandatory, employees quickly became accustomed to the time and cost savings achieved by eliminating the commute. They witnessed firsthand how this translated into an improved work-life balance. Then as time passed and feelings of isolation grew, many were eager to return to the office – while still valuing the trust and flexibility they'd experienced during remote work.

According to a PWC Future of Work report and similar studies, the average door-to-door commute in Australia is 84 minutes. So now that the novelty of returning to the office has worn off and hybrid working remains widespread, maintaining the same levels of enthusiasm for choosing the office over home then becomes paramount.

Considerations for a robust RTO strategy

Beyond the obvious tangible benefits, the office space serves as the heartbeat of an organisation, exuding collaboration, innovation, and camaraderie. It's not merely a physical location but intrinsic to the company's culture; where employees connect, share ideas, and build relationships that solidify the organisation's identity.

Moreover, companies invest millions in an office space reflective of the company culture, not to mention the expense of ongoing leasing costs.

According to the PWC report, 44% of employees come in to the office to co-locate with teams, 42% come in for special moments that matter, so it’s important we factor this in when building the RTO strategy and maximise opportunities for collaboration and team bonding.

Employee productivity has been a focal point in the debate about WFH versus RTO strategies, but a recent article by Forbes warns that strategies should look beyond employee productivity alone and consider other factors such as real estate costs and talent retention.

Designing an office worth the commute

With the Return to Work (RTO) strategy now well underway, companies are embracing a transformative shift in their workplace strategy and subsequently, office design. The spotlight has shifted towards the employee experience (EX), prompting a reimagination of office spaces to ensure they provide genuine value to employees who are once again making the commute.

Similarly, employees' attitudes towards the office are changing. No longer a place they feel obligated to show up to, but rather one they appreciate for its dynamic and fulfilling environment over the convenience of their homes.

Transform the office into work hub oasis

By crafting a "work hub oasis," the office embodies attributes trumping even the most well-appointed home offices. This goes beyond ergonomic design and equipment, as these are easily replicable at home.

Modern workplaces offer diverse areas catering to various work styles, from collaborative zones to quiet corners, empowering employees to choose how and where they work. Australia is among the most progressive markets in this arena, with aspirational office spaces that often also feature wellness areas and social spaces.

Team-Based Working over Activity-Based Working

In a well-calibrated hybrid setup, the office the office is a place to come together and collaborate and be inspired  while the home is reserved for focussed task work. Consequently, the office's requirements shift, with greater demand for collaborative spaces over individual desks.

Previously, Activity-Based Working (ABW) was a progressive approach offering varied spaces for different tasks and styles. But ABW prioritises individualism over teamwork and assumes all resources are available on demand, whether they are used or not. Now, with the focus on teamwork, teams need a dedicated space for various tasks with the ability to reserve them in a downsized hybrid workplace. Learn more about TBW versus ABW.

Team zones and neighbourhoods

Whether the hybrid arrangement is flexible or pre-determined, teams want zones they can call their own.

Creating effective team zones and neighbourhoods within flexible work environments breeds collaboration, innovation, and a sense of belonging among employees. These designated areas offer teams a space to come together, exchange ideas, and work cohesively on projects, all while maintaining the benefits of a dynamic and adaptable workspace. Team zones can be customised to align with the unique needs of each group, incorporating tools and technologies that facilitate seamless communication and knowledge sharing.

By strategically placing these zones within neighbourhoods of related teams fosters a sense of community. Employees not only have access to their own team's resources but are also exposed to adjacent teams' expertise, sparking cross-functional collaboration and a diverse flow of insights. This approach empowers individuals to easily switch between focussed work and interactive discussions, ultimately promoting a vibrant and productive work atmosphere in the ever-evolving flexible workplace.

Leveraging technology in your RTO strategy

Once the office design is in check, its time to bring it all together with a complementary digital platform like Nura Space. Designed by workplace behaviour experts, the premise behind Nura Space is to intuitively support the physical office space, extracting the utmost value by enhancing how employees interact with it.

Frictionless booking and collaboration:

The Nura Space workplace management platform enables employees to easily reserve workspaces, ensuring that they have a dedicated area when they arrive. This reduces the uncertainty of finding a suitable spot, making the commute purposeful.

The MyTeam feature also facilitates seamless collaboration by allowing teams to view upcoming bookings and cancellations in real time and set alerts for team booking activity. The live interactive floorplan serves as the 'digital twin' of the physical space within which teams can book a workpoint in close proximity to one another and establish zones for enhanced collaboration.

Space optimisation for ROI and workplace experience:

As hybrid models emerge, the question arises – do we need all this space with fewer employees in the office? Organisations must identify employees' essential requirements to achieve effectiveness which requires readily available and reliable workplace analytics.

A recent Knight Frank survey revealed that over half of large companies surveyed plan to downsize their office space by 10-20% by 2026 due to hybrid work. With less attendance and reduced demand, using tools like Nura Space to measure utilisation allows for optimal resource allocation, making the office more appealing and resulting in cost savings. Learn more about space optimisation opportunities which are not to be underestimated.

Adaptability for sustained appeal:

Studies suggest that a positive experience entices employees back to the office. Listen to employee feedback, empower them, measure behaviour, and adapt to hybrid models. By embracing these strategies, the office retains its role as the heart of the organisation, fostering a thriving and vibrant workplace.

In the face of an ongoing generational shift within the workforce, it's imperative to maintain agility and remain technologically up-to-speed. Millennials and Gen-Z demand a strong company culture with flexibility supported by the right technology. Learn more about engaging Millennials and Gen-Z in the workplace.

Get in touch for a chat or demo!

We have supported multiple companies of various sizes and with different objectives increase their RTO success rate with our flexible and scalable workplace management software. Reach out for a live demo to see if Nura Space is the right fit for your business.


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