2021 Workplace - Whay one size does not fit all, title image

85% more productive

We’ve been collecting employee opinions on Working From Home (WFH). We found two distinct experience groups since Covid restrictions began. And they represent the opposite ends of the spectrum.

The first group enthuse about WFH. Surveys show they:

  • have adopted online tools and have suitable equipment.
  • enjoy a home that physically supports their work tasks.
  • have social contact from family and friends.
  • are more efficient, especially due to saved commuting times.
  • are super effective, able to focus in a tranquil environment.

And it’s not only their opinion that suggests this last part is true:

According to a survey by Gartner, 88% of organisations around the world either encouraged WFH or made it mandatory since the onset of Covid. Of those companies, 85% report a measurable increase in productivity.

This group expressed they would like the option to visit a workplace occasionally, once Covid restrictions have been removed. Some suggest one day per week at the office would be ideal, with many suggested visiting monthly is enough. Visiting the office at the same time as their team members would be essential for most.

Work From Home = Live At Work

The second group are far from enthusiastic about WFH. They have struggled with the change. Their answers show they might:

  • be socially isolated, deeply missing the interaction provided by office life.
  • not have a home that physically supports the work they do.
  • struggle with family distractions.
  • find switching between home and work mental states difficult, overwhelmed by work issues during their free time.

This group clearly suffers from the axiom that Work From home inevitably also means Live At Work. In many cases this group has continued to visit the office when allowed to do so.

It is simple for employees to point to the physical factors which make WFH either appealing or horrific: home size, family situation, and work role are easily identified. However, it’s harder to pinpoint that some of us are just naturally more suited to WFH. In the Harvard Business Review Special Issue The New Work/ Life Balance, Nancy P. Rothbard identifies two clear working personality types: ‘Integrators’ and ‘Segmentors’:

  • Integrators enjoy mixing work and home life, both physically and through times of the day. They are happy doing laptop work on the sofa, and answer email during family time.

  • Segmentors need a physical and emotional divide between work and free time: for this group no matter how great their online tools are, or how perfect their home environment is for work, they’ll still feel the need to head into the workplace.

Your Workplace Design Strategy

Such varied opinions mean huge challenges when planning how workplaces should change.

Should all our employees be able to choose freely how often they come to the office (which might mean never!).

And should we risk loosing great employees who rely on their company to provide a great working environment.

By under-estimating how much workspace is needed we’ll have packed spaces with frustrated employees unable to find a suitable place. 

Over-estimating demand will lead to ghost offices, with painful and unnecessary overheads.

Likewise, the types of workspace that you provide with be critical. How will the shift in needs reflect in the spaces you provide? As office spaces evolve we are likely to see the need for more team spaces and project rooms, with the provision of the perfect space for individual work reduced. Understanding the balance is essential.

It is clear that one solution will not satisfy such diverse needs, and workplaces will need to be re-thought to accommodate all. 

Our next blog posts will dive deeper into how these requirements might manifest themselves in future workspaces.

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Robin Wycherley Portrate By Kristiina Hallinen 2021

About the author

Itu Design is run by Robin Wycherley, an English Interior Architect based in Helsinki since 2003. His local workplace knowledge and understanding of international projects makes Robin the first choice for global organizations seeking a local expert. Robin has completed workplace design projects for Samsung, AbbVie, Takeda, EY, Visma, The United Nations, Gartner, Carefusion, and Qlik.

Robin is a member of SIO, the Finnish Association of Interior Architects.

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