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Future of the Work Space:
Re-imagining Office Spaces to Heighten Collaboration in Today’s Hybrid World

By Sion Lewis, General Manager EMEA at GoTo

August 24 2022 - After a long period of abandoned desks, the future of the office remains uncertain. A full return to the office is deemed undesirable to many who have experienced the benefits of working from home. So, what will work look like now that the dust has settled? What learnings can we apply to the future of the office from the great experiment of remote working?

Companies can take a completely new look at their workspaces - regardless of whether they continue to work in a fully decentralised manner or opt for a hybrid path. The last two years have shown: The "butts in seats" model is outdated. But how will the office of the future enable a flexible and productive workforce? While many workers look forward to returning to the office, most agree that they have benefited greatly from telecommuting. Employees miss their colleagues, but not the commute. Currently, many executives favor a hybrid office model. They recognize that new practices and habits will support their remote team members in the long run - whether they work from home one, two or five days a week. As a result, establishing new ways for employees to work is at the top of many managers' priority lists.

Uniting the team remotely

Jobs that require a high degree of collaboration are more difficult to implement remotely. In these cases, employees need to be able to informally share information and ask questions. Remote workers often report a greater sense of social and professional isolation than in an office setting. Social activities such as virtual lunches, after-work activities, and online team-building games can be helpful to maintain the team structure.

Liberate your virtual teams

Early on during the pandemic, GoTo transitioned its workforce to a remote-centric model and has since adapted to hybrid working as some employees elect to visit the global office spaces while others remain at home. The company thus provides tips from its own experience on how remote and office workers can better interact in the future, with services that allow for communication collaboration and IT solutions to make a truly hybrid world possible for businesses of all sizes, anywhere around the world.

The key to successful implementation is that employees are given the resources they need to host successful communication with their remote employees as much as those in-person. Include remote employees in unstructured working hours together, preventing social isolation in the home office and promoting spontaneous collaboration and creativity. It’s also important to establish a level of trust for your virtual employees and give them the freedom to operate on a level of independence so that they can do their best work.

Virtual coworking environments

In the office, smaller huddle rooms can be set up for meetings with teams of up to six people instead of one large room for the entire staff. Some companies already have partitioned rooms. Such partitioning also lends itself to video conferencing and customer meetings - rather than participation from an isolated single desk. Proper huddle rooms, however, are less about scheduled appointments and more about informal "meeting places." As such, they are replacing the traditional large meeting room booked well in advance. With the help of video conferencing, teams can therefore also use these rooms for (virtual) coworking.

Collaboration is key

Virtual coworking is a measure in which distributed teams work together in a video conference. All they need is time together and video call capabilities or a video conference connection. For beginners, a period of 30 minutes to an hour is suitable. Advanced users can also extend the time and work virtually with their own team for half a day at a time. Many people - especially new starters - find it helpful to have their colleagues around them. This way, they can ask questions directly and exchange ideas.

When collaborating in this way, it's important to establish ground rules. For example, team members should usually deactivate their video transmission, but not mute themselves. That way, they can quickly check back or talk to each other. If answering a question requires more than a few brief remarks or develops into a full-blown conversation, those involved move to a separate virtual room or use a separate video conferencing connection so as not to disturb the others. They would do the same in the office presence. It is the participants' responsibility not to become too engrossed in their work. Likewise, they should ask colleagues to quiet down if conversations are too distracting. Overall, virtual coworking allows people to focus on their own work while collaborating spontaneously and not isolating themselves.

Ideas to integrate remote workers

In the future, when workers enter a modern, remote-access workplace, it should promote networking. In the office, this starts with bookable and flexible workstations. They allow employees to easily coordinate with colleagues and move freely around the work environment. Huddle spaces and variations of the traditional conference room provide tools for teamwork - both inside and outside the physical office. The goal is to foster not only a flexible work environment, but also an egalitarian one. This means providing an engaging and inclusive work environment for remote employees as well.

Many organisations already have the technology to facilitate virtual coworking. To prepare for the “second generation” of remote work, these unstructured environments will be a crucial part of the working day-to-day format. Hybrid working can be considered inclusive and empowering, if employers do it the right way. To do so, companies must embrace the remote centric approach and consider fresh ways of uniting and connecting their staff outside of the office.

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