How COVID-19 has forced businesses to adopt the modern office

In the past, whether we were interviewing for a new job or assessing our employer, remote work seemed like a unicorn only observed by that one friend of ours who worked in a Google-esque office. Even the notion of requesting the option of remote work was akin to asking for a raise or more vacation days – “we’ll take it into consideration,” or “not at this time,” or “we prefer to have all staff in-house.”

For months, the pandemic has challenged businesses all over the world and proved to be a significant financial and operational burden. With some businesses closing their doors for good, others are struggling to adapt to the “new normal.”

As we begin to approach a level of modest stability in our case numbers, and as countries loosen their restrictions, the workforce is faced with the conundrum of navigating a hybrid office model and what that looks like in today’s society.

While most employers are giddy at the thought of everyone returning to the office, undoubtedly, there are also employees who won’t be so quick to rush back.

Employees were forced to adapt to remote work, and despite wonky office setups, spotty internet connection, intermittent video call issues, and nagging pets and children, having the option to marry the convenience of remote work with the routine of working from the office is seen by many as the optimal setup.

We ran our own LinkedIn survey asking our network what their ideal work situation is, post-pandemic.

This was the response:

Horizant LinkedIn poll about hybrid, remote, or full-time office work

You might be thinking, “well, that’s out of only 32 people.” And you’re right. So, here’s an even bigger poll taken by Hootsuite back in November 2020.

When asked, “In a perfect world, how often would you like to go back into the office?” Out of 13,392 votes, an astounding 79% opted for a hybrid schedule, with 28% wanting to only go in once or twice per month and 51% choosing once or twice per week. Only 9% wanted to go back to a full-time office schedule, and the remaining 13% would prefer not to go into the office at all.

Hootsuite LinkedIn remote, hybrid, full-time office poll

Source: LinkedIn poll by Ryan Holmes, Chairman and Co-founder at Hootsuite

Read full report: I Polled 1.7 Million Professionals Over 6 Months About Remote Work. Here’s The Verdict In 10 Handy Stats

All that to say, it’s not just about creating a hybrid policy and running with it. You need to ensure that you’re setting your employees up for success and making them feel comfortable enough to make their own choices, especially as they return to the office (full-time or otherwise).

There needs to be careful implementation of health and safety protocols to not only prevent the spread of disease but to make it clear to your employees that their safety is a priority. Risk assessments must also be taken and acted upon based on findings, ensuring your employees are in the loop every step of the way. Investing in automated technology that helps you organize data and findings into tangible results for your facilities or office space while also helping you monitor systems such as contact tracing, capacity management, hotelling, and meeting space reservations is paramount to a successful return-to-office setup.

When your employees feel safe and protected, they’ll be happy to return to work.

Many offices pivoted swiftly to accommodate a work-from-home plan with their staff at the beginning of the pandemic, but as we reach the new normal, will these offices adapt to a hybrid model, revert back to full time, or liquidate their office assets and be completely remote?

Some companies like Shopify, Dropbox, and Microsoft have decided to forego the office altogether and shift to remote work for the foreseeable future. In comparison, Google’s decision to push back on remote work is frustrating employees and leaving us wondering… why aren’t they adapting?

The bottom line is that if your office can accommodate a hybrid office, and your employees would like the choice to make their own schedules, why not meet them halfway?

Failing to adapt to a hybrid office or even flexible remote work policies will prove to be a costly headache for some employers, whether that’s caused by turnover, training, office expansion, etc. By simply offering flexibility, you’re empowering your staff to make their own decisions depending on their unique needs and preferences, resulting in a more satisfied and ultimately more productive workforce.

Let’s talk about Microsoft again. Their remote policy can be summed up in six words.

Offer as much flexibility as possible.

“Flexibility can mean different things to each of us, and we recognize there is no one-size-fits-all solution given the variety of roles, work requirements, and business needs we have at Microsoft.” – Kathleen Hogan, Microsoft’s Chief People Officer.

Essentially, if you operate on the notion that your employees are responsible and valued members of your team, and if you give them the freedom to make choices that are best for them, you are giving them space and agency they need to thrive. Controlling and policing your workforce is neither effective at creating a supportive corporate culture, nor necessary if your employees are driven and dedicated to the success of the company. If these things are not true, it’s probably time to re-evaluate.

Flexibility is invaluable. Offer as much flexibility as possible, and your workforce will stick around.

Setting up your office for the hybrid model might be costly at first due to the robust digital infrastructure and other technologies required to make these adjustments possible, but over time, it is likely to be a valuable cost-saver.

For those who miss the old days of full-time office work, don’t fret – the office is far from redundant. It’s simply the time of the employee experience, and that means accepting new realities of what the office should look like. Naturally, there will be “growing pains” with this new model, but solutions can be found swiftly through investment and experience.

The most important thing to take away from all this is that hybrid is here, and companies that adopt this model are more likely to attract loyal talent.

How will you adapt to this new business climate?