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The workplace is evolving, and it’s more important than ever to keep pace. As Irvine Company’s Vice President-Planning & Design for Office Properties, John Koga, stated in a recent interview, “The future is all about the ability to change and adapt.” Here in Chicago, we’re no strangers to change and innovation. Let’s take a closer look at the shifting role of the workplace and how you can create more flexible, future-proof spaces.

Prioritizing Flexibility & Choice

As people return to the office and employers compete to attract and retain talent, it’s all about maximizing employee choice. A desk might be a good solution half of the time, but does it provide comfort or encourage collaboration? Designing workspaces that deliver on flexibility and choice is the foundation for the future of work.

  1. The new work-life balance. The lines between our work and personal lives blurred during the pandemic, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to separate these distinct parts of our lives. Thoughtful auxiliary spaces and amenitized workplaces can help people reintegrate their work and personal lives by supporting their individual wellness and celebrating personal choice.
  1. One size does not fit all. The employee experience has to be better in the office than it is at home, but “better” means different things to different people. It’s nearly impossible to create a one-size-fits-all workspace, because everyone has different needs, work styles and schedules. The key is to design spaces that allow employees to choose how, where and when they work.

Rebuilding Community & Social Trust

The pandemic forever changed the role of the workplace. After an extended period of working remotely, people are looking to the office to become a destination for human connection and socialization. Employees want to return to environments that help them regain a sense of community, and workspaces will play an active role in strengthening interpersonal relationships.

  1. Reconfigure spaces to optimize connection. If you’ve adopted a hybrid work model and have fewer people in the office at once, you may feel a lack of energy. Consider how you can reorganize your workspaces to encourage co-creation, group learning and social connection. This will lead to better employee engagement, community building and a more vibrant work culture.
  1. Forge stronger bonds. The lack of in-person connection also undermines perceived levels of honesty and reliability among teams — what is often referred to as “social trust.” Without the ability to read body language, facial expressions or detect nuances in tone, remote work leaves people vulnerable to miscommunication and misunderstandings, which can undermine trust. Workspaces that foster informal social interactions and opportunities to problem solve together will help strengthen social trust.

Putting People First & Nurturing Growth

The future workplace must prioritize people — their individual needs and goals. In addition to recreating the comforts of home, workspaces should provide valuable moments of spontaneous connection, learning and networking opportunities. Signal to your teams that you are invested in their wellbeing and growth so you can achieve success, together.

  1. Give employees a voice. Employers should proactively engage with their teams to better understand what’s most important to them and their careers. Conducting surveys, visioning sessions and regular pulse checks demonstrates empathy and care, and yields valuable insights into people-first solutions that work for you. A people-centric workspace also takes employee comfort and wellness into consideration, such as monitoring air quality, natural light and temperature.
  1. Create access and opportunity. Employees want to succeed and grow, and workspaces can play a vital role in supporting their career advancement — especially for younger generations who have spent most of their professional experience remote and isolated. Providing in-person access to leadership and mentorship opportunities is another great way to contribute to your employees’ growth.

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