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The Office: Re-imagined in an age of hybrid work

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As hybrid work continues to evolve, IT decision makers (ITDMs) and management teams are finding new ways to bring people together– both inside and outside the office – to communicate, collaborate and create together.

With the ability to go into the office again (and potentially a mandate to do so), business leaders everywhere face the challenge of balancing the need for continued productivity with employee expectations that the workplace will provide a flexible and innovative experience – and one that’s also worth the time and money of the journey into the office.

The office we know is being re-imagined – and it’s therefore essential that organisations equip their physical spaces with the tools employees’ need to work together anywhere. ​

According to Alan Slothower, Surface Business Group Lead at Microsoft UK, by leaning into what employee’s value most about the office including collaboration, engagement and productivity, business leaders and employees can find common ground.

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Richer employee engagement demands a re-imagined office

Hybrid work is here to stay, but so are the tools and tech needed to stay connected. Leaders who can find the right mix of in-office hardware and software will find that hybrid work isn’t a disruption – but an opportunity to re-imagine how work gets done. 

Having the right devices and technology can lead to increased productivity, better performance, and higher job satisfaction, regardless of location. If employers want to encourage greater in person presence, it starts by understanding that people value flexibility while also craving human connection.  

Employees today want more freedom in how, when and where they work. This is especially true for younger generations, many of whom have started their careers in a hybrid a flexible working environment. For these employees, hybrid work isn’t the ‘new normal’ – it’s just normal.

To better engage employees and encourage more in-person collaboration, the office needs to be worth it in more ways than one. As ITDMs deploy devices that support hybrid working in 2022 and beyond, aligning with employee needs is a vital first step. With so many possible working arrangements—in person, remote, in the field or another combination—a ‘one size fits all’ approach no longer works.

The new expectation of people needing flexibility around how, when, and where they work is prevalent now more than ever. Our new research, The re-imagined office: not a re-design but a re-define, found 65% of respondents see the office as a place where they can strengthen relationships and enable greater employee experience.

When asked how employees envision a new office workplace, the research revealed workers crave the basics, including strong Wi-Fi which was the most frequently mentioned requirement (49%), followed by good air conditioning with temperature control (47%), flexible working hours (46%) and good transport connections (43%).

Findings also pointed to a lack of investment in sociable and collaborative workplaces, which may be holding UK employees back from returning to the offices, as only 31% of employees say their organisation has invested in technology to help improve collaboration in the office over the past year.

In a similar sentiment, Microsoft’s Work Trend Index revealed that 73% of employees want a better reason to go into the office than just company expectations, while more than a third of hybrid employees say their biggest challenge is to know when and why to come into the office.

Technologies designed to help ensure participants are seen and heard during meetings, such as the Surface Hub 2S, Microsoft Audio Dock and tools including Whiteboard and Microsoft Teams Rooms, are paramount in creating meeting spaces which are conducive to productive, collaborative, and creative work, foster deeper connections between in-person and virtual participants and maximise screen real estate to see people​.

The laptop is the ‘anywhere office’

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Employee working patterns and attitudes towards the purpose of the office have changed over recent years. As the data shows, people have clear opinions about what they want and need from the office, and what it will take to encourage them back to in-person working. It’s clear that effective work can happen anywhere, when employees do venture to the office, they expect all the basic facilities they need to work comfortably and productively.

For the majority of employees, having the right device is paramount to boosting productivity, while supporting a healthy work-life balance, with a quarter citing poor performance and processing of company-owned device’s a top source of frustration. This further reflects a growing need for flexibility to be built into every day working lives, devices with faster compute power not only addresses existing employee frustrations but also positively impact individual performance and business outcomes.  

Having the right technology can go a long way towards powering productivity and alleviating the concerns of both employees and managers. Today’s hybrid work models mean that organisations must go beyond tools for productivity and collaboration to focus on people. A change management framework for the new office that centers on employees and their needs is vital.

When it comes to the office, trying to fit back into an ‘old house’ when style and form have all evolved simply won’t work. It’s time to recognise why employees want to come into the office, the work that’s best suited for when they get there and the tools and technology that make it all possible.       

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