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Back to the Future: Returning to Work

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Rap Interiors

How to Improve the Office Experience for Employees

After over a year of working from home, it appears that the great return to the office is finally on the horizon. With the roadmap on track and lockdown measures easing, the UK is moving in the right direction, and such is the progress that Chancellor Rishi Sunak has weighed in with a back-to-work message to businesses.

Looking beyond the pandemic, Sunak spoke about the benefits of working in the office to encourage employers to open their doors again.

You can’t beat the spontaneity, the team building, the culture that you create in a firm or an organisation from people actually spending physical time together

Sunak said in an interview with Sky News.

He went on to warn bosses that those who shut their offices risk losing staff who will “vote with their feet” and defect to a company that offers a desk.

Indeed, it’s likely that those who have been paying a premium to live close to work will be frustrated by the prospect of working from home full time.

Equally, many employees simply prefer the office environment for more reasons than simply doing work (more on this later).

Are You Ready for the Great Return?

With the return to the office in sight, we look into what employees have missed and how businesses can optimise their spaces to make them even better than before.

From furniture tips to breakout area ideas and more, you’ll find plenty of inspiration here.

Read on for some great forward-thinking workspace design ideas …

Workspaces for Training and Mentoring

During Sunak’s interview, he also discussed the importance of the office for employee development.

Imagine you’ve just left college or university; you start this job in a big company and you’re sitting at home on your own. How do you get to know your peers, how do you learn the culture of an organisation, how do you get those mentors, which are important for your career development?

This notion is supported by a survey by the British Council of Offices (BCO), which found that seven out of 10 workers said the office was important for learning and developing networks. Furthermore, two-thirds said their career had been helped by relationships made in the office.

To increase your chances of keeping hold of ambitious employees, consider introducing a dedicated space for training and mentoring.

This may be a meeting room with an electronic booking system, a plug and play workstation accompanied by a mobile whiteboard or monitor, or bleacher seating pointing towards a presentation screen.

Whatever setup you decide to use, it’s important to promote the fact that your business supports training and mentoring. Presenting a dedicated space will highlight this in a tangible way.

Bleacher seating with Microsoft branding coloured seat pads in an office breakout area Bleacher seating with Microsoft branding coloured seat pads in an office breakout area

Explore XMA’s “The Hub” Training Area, Sponsored by Microsoft

In XMA’s London Head Office, a collaborative workspace was refurbished with a variety of seating and built-in power points, perfect for training staff and clients to demonstrate the capabilities of the latest Microsoft Surface devices.

Read more details about this office refurbishment project here.

Breakout Areas for Socialising

According to a survey by Indeed on the work-from-home experience, 73% of employees miss socialising in person with colleagues.

Clearly, video technology hasn’t been able to reproduce the social experience of talking at the water cooler, working side-by-side or meeting at lunch.

For those employees who have missed the social aspect of office life, introducing spaces dedicated to mixing with colleagues will be a welcome addition.

Here are a few ideas:

Office breakout space design with a meeting pod and meeting table Office breakout space design with a meeting pod and meeting table

There is, of course, a question of how to pull this off with social distancing regulations in place.

In the short term, one solution is to space the areas out with easy-peel markers, as in the example above.

Looking for more office design ideas? Take a look at the latest Office Design Trends for 2021 here.

An Office Free of Distractions

The Indeed survey also revealed that 64% miss fewer distractions at the office compared to working from home. This is interesting data, as one might assume that working from home would offer fewer distractions.

Given that this is the case, there’s no harm in introducing a few extra elements to reduce distractions in the workplace.

For example, you can get wall panels that reduce noise pollution, soundproof pods for independent working, and private booths for phone calls and video chats.

Some offices even offer “quiet areas” where employees can double down on tasks. These are ideal for those working to tight deadlines and who need to get away from chatty colleagues!

Glass fronted soundproof booth installed for an office fit out project Glass fronted soundproof booth installed for an office fit out project

Portable and Modular Furniture Options

There has been a lot of talk about companies offering the option of flexible working to employees on a full-time basis. For many, this will be completely new and may take some to get right.

With portable and customisable office furniture, you can reconfigure the design to adapt to the needs of your employees. Equally, your employees can move the elements around to enable them to perform specific tasks.

Alternatively, consider consulting the help of a professional office design company for expert space planning advice.

Here are a few examples where you can, you can change things up with ease and develop a layout that maximises productivity.

Collaboration Made Easy

Let’s face it, video technology just isn’t the same as face-to-face collaboration. It can be hard to pick up on visual cues and battling with malfunctioning technology is enough to make you want to pull your hair out.

As collaboration has been more of a challenge during the pandemic, employees will value changes to workplace interiors that facilitate team tasks. This will be especially important for companies transitioning into flexible working, as the office will provide the space where important meetings can be held and creative ideas shared.

The modern way to do this is to create an agile space where employees can “plug in and play” with their devices. For example, you could introduce shared meeting tables with integrated power, pods for two or more people, and lounge areas with nearby plug sockets for laptops.

A Designated Area for Collaboration in Ethypharm’s Office

As a focal point in Ethypharm’s office, our designers included a central breakout space with acoustic solutions for informal meetings, promoting flexible working practices in the workplace design.

Read more details about this collaborative breakout area design here.

If you’re thinking about making changes before returning to the office, our final advice to you is this: speak to your employees.

They will tell you what they’ve missed from working in the office and what they’ve enjoyed about working from home, enabling you to make changes that will improve their overall experience.

By doing so, you may just prevent them from “voting with their feet” and joining a rival company. In fact, you may even attract some bright talents as you make a great return to the office.

The Pick Everard London office fit out in Holborn The Pick Everard London office fit out in Holborn

Are You Thinking of a Workspace Refurbishment?

Are you going back to your workplace? Whether you’re going back full time or embracing a new way of working, Rap Interiors can help.

Rap’s dedicated team offers unparalleled expertise when it comes to workplace design and build.

From furniture procurement to space planning to move management and more, we offer a full range of services to ensure your workplace is optimised for present and future operations.

To book a free consultation, call us on 0333 600 1234 or email refurb@rapinteriors.co.uk.

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