“The Future Office Is Not About Place”

Returning to the office is certainly a hot topic these days. (I’ve also written about this, here and here.) Sixty-one percent of employers expect at least half of their staff back in the office by October 2021, according to a recent survey by HR consultancy Mercer. Another 87% say flexibility will define their workplaces like never before.

The traditional office has meant centralized spaces housing the vast majority of employees with assigned desks and set office hours. Now, hybrid is top of mind.

What does “hybrid” really mean?

Few companies seem to have clearly defined what “hybrid” really means. When pressed further, leaders share varied descriptions of the physical workplace. For example:

  • Virtual – No physical or centralized office space. All staff work remotely, all of the time.
  • Hoteling – Central office spaces where employees reserve a desk at nearby office locations, as needed.
  • Split Work – Central office spaces where employees are expected to work onsite for ~2-3 days/week and remotely for the rest.
  • Concierge Space – Shared office and meeting spaces that can be reserved or subscribed for varied time periods and locations (similar to what’s been offered by the likes of Regus, WeWork, and Intelligent Office.)

Adopting one of these may represent a dramatic departure from past practices for some businesses. Yet, these aren’t new options. Furthermore, conversations dealing solely with physical space miss the boat.

Real change for the office requires rethinking work.