The upheaval of workplace culture in the last decade has impacted the function of the office as we know it today. The increasing prevalence of remote and hybrid working arrangements and recent economic shifts have created a new era of the office environment. Gone are the days when an enticing snack bar or city skyline view could entice employees to work from the office.

In understanding these minor shifts in working habits and the entrance of a new generation of employees, organizations are starting to rethink the importance of the office space and are open to modernizing their current workplace to cater to these factors.

With more businesses trialing a four-day workweek, others are still coaxing employees on the benefits of working from the office throughout the week, making it apparent that employers are adopting a variety of workstyle approaches. Understanding workplace experience design can play a crucial factor in creating a productive environment for the benefit of both employees and employers.

Source: Coca Cola Amatil Office by Unispace

Adapt, adopt, or assemble?

The quintessential office space has been reimagined across decades with the advent of technology advancements. From previously being a location for paperwork in the early 1900s, to post-war modular cubicles, and eventually the mega offices popularised by tech giants, the concept of the “office” has been invented and reinvented to suit the needs of each major socio-economic period.

As we navigate a post-pandemic world, where resistance against working from the office five days a week and the impending inflation and recession are considerable factors for businesses, employers need to understand the best way to maximize their current situation.

A finding in Unispace Global Workplace Insights 2023 revealed that despite 51% of employees being reluctant to return to physical offices, they prefer to conduct brainstorming sessions, one-on-one meetings, and conversations with their managers in the office or in person.

With changing corporate culture and needs, most employers have not been able to take full advantage of such shifts to foster a positive, productive hybrid workplace environment that factors in employee welfare and efficiency.

Rather than focusing on adapting and adopting methods from other businesses, companies should look into understanding the requirements of their teams and their employees to create an effective workplace experience through design.

For instance, Nike transformed their office space and culture to echo the same connection its consumers have within the workplace. This distinctive “Just Do It” attitude wasn’t instilled among its corporate staff overnight, rather it was also cultivated through mindful design based on data gathered from its employees. This transformation resonated with Nike’s employees, allowing them to experience the brand’s distinctive ethos despite producing work at a corporate level.

An intentional approach toward workplace experience can lead to a space that fosters an environment that creates a sense of belonging and shared values between employees and the company.

Elevating workplace experience design with data

Intention is the biggest driver of effectively producing the right workplace experience design for the benefit of both employees and businesses. In order to create an environment that accounts for staff mental, physical, and emotional welfare, transformation concepts should be driven by intentional data that aims to tackle organizational challenges such companies face.

Regardless of whether the workplace exists in a physical, virtual, or hybrid space, information related to employee welfare can impact the retention and attraction of the best talent. Maximizing data gathered from the current workforce sheds light on their perspective around productivity, their behavior around work and other coworkers, and even finding the ideal space for constructive work. Based on these findings, and the needs of the company and employees, workplace experience can be heightened through designs intended to target any existing or potential pain points within the office environment.

The same report shares that over 75 percent of employees and employers are considering shifting to a four-day workweek, with data backing these views from a generational perspective. As a new cohort of employees enters the workforce, 79 percent of those aged below 35 years expect to physically work in the office versus 51 percent of staff aged over 45. However, there is a resounding agreement among 88% of employees around the four-day workweek and its correlation to physical presence in the workplace.

Aside from hybrid arrangements, integrating advanced technology to empower the workforce, regardless of their physical location, to seamlessly integrate and enhance business processes is becoming a necessity. Such inclusions, whether through digital solutions or utilizing AR/VR to remain relevant, inculcate a collaborative and productive workplace experience regardless of the environment.

Through such data-driven analysis, companies will be able to use these insights to target needs and streamline their processes to envision and design the right workplace experience for all iterations of office spaces.

Envisioning the ideal dynamic environment for all employees

The heart of all businesses and their decisions should start to lie within the workforce they hire. Understanding their needs as part of the decision-making process can bring about a seamless transition into this new era of workplace culture.

Source: Woodside Office by Unispace

Whether it’s creating designated space, enabling flexibility, or optimizing digital tools, when designing the right workplace experience, businesses should look into prioritizing user experience for both their internal and external stakeholders.

The confines of the physical office space, in this new era of hybrid work, shouldn’t hinder the growth of any employee. Rigid office plans should make way for flexible working spaces that seamlessly integrate within a hybrid team, creating an interconnected work experience that reflects the sentiments of the modern workforce. As the global economy exhibits signs of slowing down and the labor market tightens, companies need to place greater importance on the retention and attraction of the best talent within their industries.

Incorporating data is simply the first step towards optimizing workplace experience. It should account for the effects it can have on employee morale and productivity – with retention of skilled talent and reputation being at the heart of such organizational transformations. Inculcating and creating a model that resonates with the ethos of the business while striving for greater employee-driven spaces should begin to emerge as a workplace norm to allow for growth, positive sentiments, and productivity, especially as the definition of corporate culture changes to make way for a new generation of workforce.

Human-centricity as the future of workplace design

The trajectory of workplace experience design emerges as a powerful determinant in shaping the daily experiences of employees. As we navigate the challenges of modernizing operations, it is critical to be cognisant of the synergy in creating a nuanced human-centered design driven by technology. Such transformations aren’t merely a strategic move but a business imperative for the future of work, and encouraging organizations to embrace this symbiotic relationship will undoubtedly pave the way for thriving workplaces in this new era of work.

Tim Larson is Chief Creative Officer and Unispace Managing Director, Asia at Unispace. He has been a leading innovator in the field of designing emerging experiences, and interaction in architectural environments for more than 25 years. Previously Design Principal, Downstream, our experience design agency, he grew the business through pioneering new approaches in corporate interiors, retail stores, sports and entertainment venues, among other space types. 

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