As we approach two years of a radically changed work environment due to the pandemic, much uncertainty remains. Plans to return to the physical workspace have been derailed or delayed by the Omicron variant and organizations are grappling with how best to move forward. What has changed in the workplace, and what needs to continue changing?
Some businesses have decided that they can get along just fine with a remote workforce, at least in the shorter term. They’re in the minority, but many were already operating virtually pre-pandemic, so the transition has been easier. At the other end of the spectrum are those for whom remote work is not a viable option: service industries, manufacturers and so forth.
In the middle are the vast majority of businesses, trying to roll with the continued punches of COVID and figure out the best combination of in-person, remote and hybrid work for their own teams and circumstances. And if there’s one word to describe handling all this uncertainty, it’s this: adaptability.
That can mean a lot of things, but in terms of office design it’s really the continuation of a trend of several years: Many organizations had already seen the value of flexible workspaces in both the more efficient use of space and the ways in which they promote collaboration. That physical adaptability will now become even more important.
Remote and hybrid work means fewer opportunities for teams to collaborate in person, which is indisputably more effective. So when a team is in the same physical space, every effort needs to be made to maximize that opportunity with an environment that can adjust on the fly to changing needs.
Adaptability is required far beyond the physical workspace, of course. We still don’t fully understand how this prolonged stretch of diminished interaction will affect all of us as workers and as human beings, and business leaders will need to be even more flexible than their workspaces to accommodate the changing needs of their teams.