How are offices changing? | The Economist

How are offices changing? | The Economist
The pandemic and hybrid working have changed the very idea of the office. This is not only changing the design and purpose of offices, but the look of cities too.

The office…
…where showing your face every day used to be the name of the game
But the game has changed
To think about the office as purely a container for your people…
…and your equipment is very outdated
For large multinational firms, the pandemic and hybrid working…
…have changed the very idea and purpose of the office
The office of today, in a post-pandemic world is a social destination
Offices are being radically redesigned
This is where we build the offices of the future
The changing office is changing the way bosses manage employees
A hybrid model requires a very high degree of trust
And this new world of hybrid working could shape what cities look like
Remote working will affect the way we plan our cities
Here in the bustling capital of India…
…this design consultancy is mapping out the offices of the future
What we do here is not only test products…
…but we also test design
We test human behaviour
We test wellness
How all of these come together to make good design
In the past, office design was functional at best
It was simply the place where employees went because they had to
But, in management-speak, there’s been a paradigm shift
Since the pandemic, the offices of multinational companies…
…have had dramatic facelifts
So our office in Delhi is a prime example of…
…what kind of office designs organisations are looking for…
…in the post-pandemic world
Out have gone rows of desks and cubicles
In have come collaboration spaces and relaxation zones…
…and even restaurants and bars
From Ericsson and Standard Chartered…
…to Boston Consulting Group and Beam Suntory…
…some of the world’s biggest companies have redesigned their offices
The main driver of this redesign boom is hybrid working
In the post-pandemic world, working partly at home and partly in the office…
…is now seen as the new normal by many employees of multinational firms
This has redefined the purpose of company offices…
…and the reasons why employees go there
The office of today, in a post-pandemic world, is about a social destination
It is a place where employees come in to have informal learning…
…and build their social capital in the organisation
In Singapore, Fae Wong is a senior manager for a multinational firm
For her, home is now where she does her day-to-day desk work…
…and the office is where she goes for actual face-time
I see the office as a base for me to go back to…
…so that I can meet my colleagues, have lunch with them
So it’s really a place where I reconnect, where I socialise with people…
…rather than get work done
Demand for flexible working has risen for employees…
…of multinationals across the world
A study found that at least some remote working is wanted…
…by 76% of workers in Europe, 86% in America and 78% in Asia
Ben Hamley is the lead on the future of work in the Asia-Pacific Region…
…for real-estate company JLL
The office is certainly still the centre of the work ecosystem…
…for most of the world’s most progressive companies today
But it’s much more expansive
It includes much more flexible use of space…
…and time to be able to deliver the needs of a future workforce
In the post-pandemic era…
…many companies will need to change the layout of their offices…
…and accept that employees have second offices in their homes or elsewhere
This new concept of the office will change…
…how employees need and expect to be managed
If I was looking for a new job…
…I think having that flexibility to continue to do…
…remote working will be my top priority
Even more important than salary itself
So, in management-speak, bosses will need to think outside the box…
…and outside of the traditional office
Being judged on how often you show your face in the company office…
…will no longer cut it…
…even in parts of the world where there has traditionally been…
…a strong culture of presenteeism
Thinking that we are being assessed or appraised by attendance…
…rather than performance, that’s a very Asian culture
But I see things changing
Making hybrid offices a success…
…will require managers to give employees more autonomy
So a hybrid model requires a very high degree of trust…
…between employers and employees
Now we find that to be a real challenge for managers
And that’s true not just in the Asia-Pacific but all over the world
Better management of employees…
…who are not always in the same physical office…
…will be crucial to companies’ ability to retain and recruit the best talent
Because what happens then is managers start to move toward…
…a way of evaluating employees that’s based on their results…
…not on the hours that they’re putting in
Employees are more engaged in their work
Work quality increases
It’s fantastic
However, there could also be losers from the hybrid-office revolution
Things may get worse for groups, such as working mothers…
…who are likely to spend less time in company offices
Although this will be a global problem, it could be more pronounced in Asia…
…where discriminatory attitudes towards working mothers…
…tend to be worse than in western Europe and North America
We already have a great deal of gender inequality
Hybrid work could carry a risk…
…that the inequality would become even greater
Hybrid work may not only change office management cultures…
…and office designs, it could also lead to multinational companies…
…building more offices, namely smaller and more local ones
In the commercial-property trade…
…this is known as the hub and spoke model
So as companies have become more comfortable with hybrid work…
…the concept of having multiple locations that all form…
…part of that office ecosystem has become much more popular
One of the driving forces here is reduced appetite…
…for commuting into city centres
In Singapore, only 30% of workers have returned to their offices…
…in the central business district since the pandemic
And this pattern has repeated in cities across the world
In the City of London, office vacancies have nearly doubled…
…since the last quarter of 2019
In Hong Kong, office vacancies have doubled
In Bangkok, they have also doubled
And in Paris La Défense, office vacancies have nearly tripled
This trend could mean more offices and co-working spaces…
…popping up in residential areas
Not least in Asia, where large multigenerational households are common…
…and space to work at home can be at a premium
Employees will increasingly want office options closer to home
Those locations not only attract more competitive businesses…
…but they also attract more competitive talent
Changes to the concept, design and location of offices…
…could have wider repercussions for the look of cities
In countries across the globe, urban planners are returning to design models…
…which incorporate concepts used after the Industrial Revolution
Back then, businesses and industries were often found close to…
…or in residential areas…
…before the arrival of the car changed this
In the last 100, 150 years…
…the city has evolved from one that is very mixed in function…
…into cities that are becoming more and more segregated
But we are beginning to see a reverse in this trend
You live, work, play, learn etc. in close, close proximity
Now urban planners in Singapore are pushing design concepts…
…like the 15-minute city, five-minute city and even one-minute city…
…where all daily necessities are within easy reach
Although Singapore has often been ahead of the curve in urban planning…
…this trend could become more global
There’s really no reason why offices cannot be mixed with residential
And I think it will be a win-win
It’s not just the individual, but it’s individual, community and business
Hello, I’m Tom Standage, deputy editor at The Economist
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