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The future of the office

The return to the office is a hotly contested subject at the moment. As lockdown begins to ease and companies plan their next steps, Rachael King, our Head of People, outlines her vision for the future of the office. 

On the 4th of March last year we opened our hub office in London with a launch party in true Quadmark style. Our UK team is based all around the country, so we created a space for Quadmarkers to meet, work on projects together, have team meetings, and host fabulous events. By the 16th March, we were emptying the fridge and buying water pellets to keep our plants alive, and we haven’t returned… yet.

Even before the pandemic, allowing our teams to choose where to work was embedded in our culture. Like many companies over the last year we had to reevaluate our offices and let some spaces go. However, as the roadmap towards easing restrictions unfolds in each country, we are starting to think about returning to our offices and how we will use them going forward.

The future of the office is a hot topic and it elicits quite polarized approaches. From Goldman Sachs’ announcement that “We’re all going back to the office!” to Spotify’s decision that “We’re all going to work remotely!”. My view is that this is not an either or moment for all. Working from one place or another all of the time is not for everyone. But, the choice of when and where we work should be.

"The future of the office is a hot topic and elicits quite polarized approaches."
Manager excitedly preparing to cut a company branded cake inside the company office

Many of our team can’t wait to travel, work from a different space and socialize with each other again. Others are permanent remote workers who don’t have any desire to travel to an office, and some want a mix of both. Our employees’ preferences are certainly reflected in wider polls. Future Forum by Slack conducted a three month survey of over 9,000 skilled office workers around the world and found that 3 in 10 workers would never or rarely want to return to the office, while 4 in 10 would like to go back to the old normal. 

The last 12 months of enforced working from home has shown many companies that there are alternatives to the traditional office model. Both the nature of modern office work and the technology available to us mean that we don't need to be tied to a physical space to get our jobs done. We can work in the office, at home, in coffee shops, in co-working spaces and on the move. According to Gallup, people who work remotely 60-80% of the time have the highest levels of engagement with their work. As employees, we are capable of determining which option is best fit for the work we are doing. And with this flexibility we can be more productive, healthier, happier and ultimately more engaged.

“The office space will be used to promote community and collaboration… Gone are the days where being present equates to work output.”

Group of colleagues exiting the front door of the company office

But, if we do choose to go back to the office, how will we use the space? I think office spaces will be used to promote community and collaboration. Work isn’t something people need to come to the office for anymore. Gone are the days where being present equates to work output — effectiveness can’t be measured by the number of hours people spend at their desks. 

Regardless of the industry or market you are operating in, competition is high and the need to enhance the productivity of teams continues. Returning to the office is not the answer to greater productivity, and you may even get less out of your teams than before if you mandate a return. Instead, giving people the freedom to choose where they work should boost their productivity and effectiveness. 

“Giving people the freedom to choose where they work should boost their productivity and effectiveness.”

Colleagues working in a shared space. Two are having a conversation while a third colleague is working from a laptop.

Equally you can’t beat time together. Negotiating, brainstorming sessions, providing sensitive feedback are far easier in person and potentially have better results. Getting to know one another in person is important for morale and is the foundation of strong working relationships. An office can often be the best place for this. If a return to the office is used to enhance work and build better relationships, then it will be a positive for everyone. 

Going forward, the office will become a hub location for teams to come together to drive creativity, interaction, build relationships and collaborate, and spaces will be designed with this in mind. But the choice of where to work will ultimately be down to the individual. At Quadmark, we plan to gradually recreate hub spaces for our team to meet again in our various locations across the UK, US and Singapore. As soon as we can, we will create opportunities for our teams to meet again (or for the first time — there are 30 people who have joined over the last 12 months who have never met another Quadmarker!).

Our hybrid model challenges us to improve our communication and collaboration practices, processes and tools, every day. It isn’t easy but here are some of the things that work for us:

  1. We trust our team implicitly. Our core attributes of humility, commitment, adaptability, communication & caring are all built from trust. 
  2. We define the outcomes we want through OKRs and then give our team the freedom to work out the best way to achieve them.
  3. We have a flat structure and try to communicate transparently at every opportunity.
  4. We provide the tools and tech for collaborative working. Our video is always on!
  5. We create opportunities to get to know each other, have fun together virtually and in person and truly care about each other. 

So is this the future? I believe it is. As companies consider their futures and where they want to be, I don’t think they have the choice not to offer, well... choice! We have a unique opportunity to instill flexibility which, in turn, will enable our teams to be even more productive, healthier and happier.

Get in touch with the team if you have any questions, or you’d like to talk to us about how we can help implement successful learning techniques in your place of work.

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