The discussion about flexible office spaces had begun in some inspired C-suite offices at the turn of the decade. But in the momentous year 2020, the ‘work from anywhere’ idea was invariably tabled at every office nook and cranny and also came to fruition. It was no longer a ‘good-to-have’ perk but an enduring requirement on which the health and well-being of every office-worker depended.
As such, flexible office spaces are now a concept that cannot be ignored in the world of work. Every scale of an organization from the one centuries-old to the newest start-ups will have to consider workforce models that allow, in fact, even encourage, location-independence among their workforce.
Flexible office spaces – Making a case for retention and employee engagement
HR hierarchies have adapted quickly to the idea of flexible office spaces. They see that there is no way out of rethinking workspaces in the climate of reduced social contact, the risk associated with physical contact, and the promises of technology that make collaboration possible even if teammates are not in the same physical space. They point out to more conventional executives and managers that organizations that leave this plan out of their workforce planning can get left behind by top talent in turn.
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To the directors and policymakers who are unconvinced, the argument of talent risk is more than a converting factor. It is more of a hygiene aspect – something no workplace in the world of work can do without. Some professionals may accept a job prospect without flexibility in the short term. But the idea of working from home or working from anywhere has become prevalent enough for professionals to expect to be extended courtesy as a matter of course. When it isn’t, it’s only natural for them to keep looking for the opportunity.
Distributed workspace models and the popularity of coworking spaces in every city mean that the location of the employee matters much less. Instead, the skills, attitude, and ability to get things done matters more. Workers have the power of technology to make tele-conferencing and collaboration possible from the palms of their hands even while they’re on the move. For the hiring manager looking to attract top talent, the job pool of likely candidates expands to a far wider range, with scores of more possibilities of keeping them engaged.
Forward-looking view for the new normal
The COVID-19 pandemic has made empathy in the hiring and management of human capital a non-negotiable requirement. Hiring managers and line supervisors naturally appreciate the private constraints of their team members and show understanding to their distributed teams. They make accommodations for the workers with tricky personal situations such as young children being schooled online from home, limited child-care options, and caring for loved ones from home. Distributed workspaces make it possible for all these special cases to showcase talent and put in work, thereby proving themselves as reliable, supportive employers. This sort of progressive thinking is required to take employment rates, engagement models, and overall economic development forward. In India’s context, many educated women still drop out of the workforce midway through their careers to care for their families. The option of flexible office spaces brings in the much-needed diversity and inclusion that workplaces all need to strengthen.
The new normal of working with flexible office spaces has expedited all the policies that are people-centric. Findings support the need for more such working models to join the mainstream. COVID-19 necessitating less or near-zero in-person interaction has given the fillip that all these working models had already made possible. Naturally, the organizations that uphold these models of workforce engagement and employee-centric support will become the frontrunners in employee engagement.
Quantitative support for flexible office spaces from around the world
Top talent feels motivated to do their jobs well not only from succession planning, opportunities for participation in growth, cash incentives, and feel-good boosts such as rewards and recognition at the workplace but also flexibility in working from anywhere. This is especially true of working parents, professionals with tricky care-giving requirements at home, and special needs calling for support. Surveys point out that a minimum of 15% to a maximum of 42% of employees routinely consider job roles and opportunities at more flexible office spaces when they are denied such flexibility at their current employers’. Notably, most of these surveys were conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic required out-of-the-box workforce planning.
The mandate from the point of view of the healthcare emergency at hand and requirement for social distancing brought matters to a head while also pointing out the benefits of these models. Those who do offer work from home options see that absenteeism and sick days are reduced. Employees are also more engaged in their job roles and might even spend longer hours at the job than if they were at an office. The figures from the United Kingdom are surmounted by even higher numbers among Indian professionals. 60% of Asian workers outside India look for workplace flexibility while a whopping 88% of Indians prefer to have remote working options. Leading the remote working model figures are the workers from the USA who are already at 1 out of 4 in terms of remote workers against office workers.
The above contrast proves that irrespective of economic standing, industrialization, and demographic factors, flexible office spaces are welcomed by the working population across the world.
An economic underpinning for the remote workplace
From the macroeconomic perspective of running organizations, operational costs are reduced by workplaces that allow working from anywhere. Occupancy costs for offices which are calculated ‘per workstation’ certainly go down. Fewer desks need to be maintained for staggered shifts of employees to be brought in while the others report to work virtually. This reduces the expenditure on electricity, cleaning, periodic sanitization, and provision of a medley of support features to make the employee feel cared for in an office building. The result is a dramatic reduction in per square feet of occupancy cost. On the other side of the coin, one-time investment in digital transformation has made it possible for 94.7% of Indian organizations to take their work online in the year 2020 with fast-tracked programs.
There is still a critical 18% of organizations that look to revoke the remote working program and hope to return to in-office work. But they are in the minority. For the most part, employers have transitioned to hybrid models in which a mix of in-office workers and remote workers from home or anywhere else complement the fulfillment of organizational goals. This blend of hybrid working models supported by flexible office spaces will continue to be the norm as employers go on to hire fresh talent and keep them engaged despite varying influences in the business environment.
- Flexible Office Spaces: The New Normal | The Financial Express | Rohit Rajput | Feb 2021
- Work from home to be new normal in 2021 too, HR managers keen on hiring: TimesJobs survey | ET Bureau | Sreeradha Basu | Jan 2021
- Remote work, Work From Home models now mainstream | The Financial Express | Alok Ohrie | Jan 2021
- 1 in 4 Americans will be working remotely in 2021, Upwork survey reveals | CNBC | Lori Ioannou | Dec 2020
- 88% Of Indian Workforce Prefer To Have The Flexibility Of Working From Home: SAP Concur Study | The Business World | BW Online Bureau | March 2021
- Lack of flexible working risks talent exodus | Workplaceinsight.net | George Eltringham | June 2019
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