The workplace of three years ago is gone, and with the pandemic came a disruption of the modern office on a scale that’s never been seen before. Workplaces are now flexible, dynamic and collaborative while fixed spaces are becoming fewer and farther between, and with that they become tricky to navigate and lack a personal touch. No longer with dedicated spaces, employees are asking what makes it ‘my workplace’ rather than ‘a workspace’ and utilizing spaces on demand.
Times like now can also bring exceptional creativity and innovation, and for businesses this can be an exciting time to foster strategic thinking and an agile mindset for companies and employees. Rethinking workforce and workplace strategy is critical, and those performing the best are deliberately designing work around people, not hierarchy.
Pillar #1: Hybrid Flexibility
Employees want a more dynamic workspace, and something I get asked a lot from companies is, “How can we make it easier for our employees to find a space they need?” Hybrid work is now mainstream, but businesses of all sizes have struggled to get a handle on its operations. As indicated by Gartner, in 2023 it’s up to business leaders to facilitate the transition by making this two-pronged experience as easy as possible for employees. Leaning into hybrid flexibility is pillar #1 for workplace leaders I talk with who are looking ahead.
Communication and coordination can be challenging in a hybrid environment. When it comes to visibility and keeping everyone connected with their teams in real time, we must help workers go into the office smoothly and safely. There needs to be an ongoing link between digital and physical to ensure collaboration, productivity, and safety. Investing in the right strategy and resources to do this will not only automate a lot of heavy admin work, it will transform the way you operate.
Two standout companies in different industries who are getting hybrid right are PVH and Blue Shield of California. They follow a similar model toggling between in-office and remote work on a team-by-team basis instead of a top-down, one size-fits-all approach. A model recently nicknamed by Stanford economist, Nick Bloom, as “organized hybrid.”
Pillar #2: Smarter Space Management
Managing space is a huge problem for companies and with budgets under intense scrutiny, the ugly reality of empty offices with skyrocketing operating costs isn’t going to pass in 2023. In a hybrid environment, people need a way to easily book desks, schedule a room, do contactless check-in, arrange equipment, and find their team. Facility managers want tools to manage hot desking, look at utilization data, and better plan for work needs. And HR teams want to look at productivity issues, helping employees find the right spot and work in the most effective way.
Given all the above, managing space can be a challenging hurdle for those in the driver's seat, but here are a few fundamentals that I’ve observed to work well:
Let data guide you:
Uncertainty came hand-in-hand with the changes that rocked the world in recent years, and now that the dust has somewhat settled, take advantage of utilization data or invest in real-time analytics to take any guesswork out of things. Understand what your people are looking for and customize and flex to those needs. Hoteling apps
Be deliberate with the tech you choose:
Pre-recession, it was common for companies to invest in ‘all-in-one' technology vendors that offer suites of solutions and the promise of more integration fitting multiple needs. These often come with really big price tags and long onboarding times. With aggressive budget scrutiny in 2023, it would be wise to get hyper precise with your choice of workplace tech, to get maximum ROI and both product depth and speed/flexibility. Skedda is a great desk booking and scheduling software tool that offers these qualities.
Be flexible above all else:
If the last three years have taught us anything, it’s that we can’t predict the future. Sometimes we just don’t know what’s going to come next, so planning for different scenarios can help. With the help of technology, you can change up spaces and quickly get creative as needed.
Thinking longer term, investing in new ways of managing space can contribute to a more sustainable world – goals that more companies are committing to. Running office buildings are a huge contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and with smarter usage of space we can reduce energy consumption. For example, visibility into room scheduling data from desk hoteling apps can help pinpoint where and when to turn lights on as opposed to running them for an entire building.
Pillar #3: Foster Connection
Connecting people in person again is an essential leadership priority for 2023, as companies work to deliver a balance between meaningful human connection and digital agility for their peopleforce. Research from Red Thread Research and Enboarder suggests that strong workplace connections have significant benefits for both employees and employers. They found that when companies prioritize connections, they’re 2.3 times more likely to have engaged employees, 5.4 times more likely to be agile and 3.2 times more likely to have satisfied customers. Interestingly, the study also found that:
- 57% of hybrid and full-time in-office respondents named the ability to form stronger relationships as the number one most important benefit of going into the office.
- Managers not providing enough support (29%) and managers/leaders not providing enough transparency in decisions (26%) were two of the top three most cited barriers to connection in the workplace.
Based on this insight, workplace leaders can take a step back and assess how strong connections are within teams, across teams and with the organization and find opportunities for improvement. I suggest starting with listening to your employees' needs, revisiting your values, and coming up with guidelines that strike a compromise between these requests and your company needs. For example, a hybrid workplace policy amongst many of our clients has promoted a better sense of belonging and connections by allowing freedom and customization.
Pillar #4: Empathy
Going one step further, connections on their own won’t be enough to successfully navigate 2023. HR leaders are faced with making tough and unpopular decisions alongside serving their workers on a deeply human level. An acute sense of empathy, when coupled with a company culture of meaningful connections, can transform how your organization runs and bring lasting impact.
Job seekers want to be cared about as human beings, not just as worker bees. With well-being a priority, more companies are looking to provide employees flexible working arrangements and support. Empathy is a pivotal leadership tool in today’s global market, and in the year ahead this is more important than ever.
“Organizations that build empathy as a competency tend to have more effective teamwork, better levels of employee engagement, and the ability to handle conflict in more constructive ways,” according to Jennifer Lawrence, MBA, Managing Director at Process Design Consultants.
Preparing for a Flexible Future
If the last three years have taught us anything, it’s that we can’t always predict the future. Sometimes we just don’t know what’s going to come next in this world, and being prepared for a flexible future is the final pillar for 2023 workplace leadership. With the help of technology, we can have agile multi-use spaces and smart data to understand what people are looking for and customize to those needs, and better confidence going into the future of work that promises one constant we know to be true: change.
To summarize, the four strategic pillars I suggest leaning into for workplace success are:
- Hybrid Flexibility
- Smarter Space Management
- Foster Connection
For more insights on hybrid work management, read 6 Tips for People Managers in the Year of Efficient Hybrid Work.If you’re ready to start scheduling and booking, create your free Skedda account and get going today.