What are the new post-pandemic workplace trends that will determine the corporate status quo for the years to come? Thousands of managers around the world are scrambling to find the answer to this question in order to stay competitive, productive, and able to attract the best talent.
In this article, we’ve listed 8 hot workplace trends that smart managers should consider as we continue living in this Covid-transformed world. Not all of these post-pandemic office design and work culture trends will be suitable for your company, your industry, or your particular team. They will, however, give you ideas on how to modernize your workplace environment and a better understanding of how to respond to the needs of the post-pandemic worker.
1. Asynchronous work
Asynchronous work happens when people on the same team work during different times of the day. It’s the opposite of the traditional working model where all employees are expected to be available during the same time window, e.g. nine to five.
Asynchronous work is a direct by-product of more people working remotely and at different times. Where employers encourage such flexibility, people might choose to run errands in the middle of the day and then compensate for the missing work hours in the evening.
A growing number of companies hire employees from different time zones, benefiting from the access to a larger and more diverse talent pool. Asynchronous work is natural for such distributed teams, but how to make sure that everyone is doing their best work even from afar (and in a different time zone)?
Consider using an unobtrusive time tracking app that will work in the background on your employees’ computers and measure their productivity levels. Mind that such technology shouldn’t be used for spying, but rather for maintaining accountability and helping employees keep track of their own productivity.
2. Hybrid workplaces
Hybrid offices are part of a flexible working model designed to support people who need — or prefer — to work partly from the office and partly from home. And there are plenty of them — according to McKinsey’s report about the Future of work more than half of the employees would like their workplace to adopt a hybrid working model, with at least three remote work days a week.
A hybrid office can be understood as both a physical space designed for a hybrid workforce and a business model that supports flexibility, a distributed workforce, and the use of innovative technology to enable virtual and hybrid collaboration within teams.
Hybrid workplaces are usually smaller than office spaces for a fully on-site workforce because all the staff is never expected to be present simultaneously. Unassigned seats (see point No 3), lockers for personal stuff and a system for scheduling on-site attendance are common in such spaces. Many modern hybrid offices place emphasis on spacious and interactive meeting rooms and common areas, to celebrate the times when employees come together face-to-face.
3. Unassigned seating
Unassigned, dynamic, or “hot” desks are a post-pandemic office design trend welcomed by some employees and hated by others, with studies showing equal support for either side. While companies often see hot desks as a space and money-saving solution, employees, on the other hand, don’t see it as particularly beneficial for them.
Nevertheless, some people like — or don’t mind — the change of seating scenery that may enhance creativity and foster friendships outside of their usual circle of friends at work. In addition, employees are able to choose any available “hot desk”, try different seating, or use standing desks, thus benefiting their health.
On the downside, unassigned seat management may be more of a hassle than it seems at first glance. For example, if your company has a very limited number of free desks, it may be hard for teams that work together on a specific project to find seats next to each other. On the other hand, if there are too many free seats, it may give the impression that the office is empty and unwelcoming. So think about your company’s specifics, survey your employees on how often they plan to come to the office, and try to find the balance between all the risks. Make sure the office has some on-demand private spaces for employees to take client calls or simply to have peace and quiet for tasks that require focus.
Finally, COVID-19 brings new considerations to the hot desk arrangement. From an epidemiological standpoint, it seems safer to stick to allocated seats unless you are ready to carry out thorough disinfection of all desks at the end of each day. In short, organizations that choose the unassigned seating model will need to implement systems for seat reservation to balance employee and team schedules, space utilization & ergonomics, and safety considerations.
4. Enhanced health & well-being initiatives
Responsible workplaces have always taken care of insurance and well-being packages for their employees. Now such aspects are more crucial than ever, with more and more people expecting health & safety measures to be in place at work, as well as different well-being initiatives to be built into their benefits packages.
To begin with, the post-pandemic workplace is expected to take all the necessary hygiene and ventilation precautions to prevent the spreading of Covid-19 and other viruses. This goes on top of the usual things such as office ergonomics, proper lighting, and comfortable seating that are invariably important for employee well-being.
With all the benefits of remote work, there are quite a few downsides for the health and work-life balance of employees. From an employer’s perspective, remote employees may seem more productive and working longer hours. However, McKinsey’s report about the Future of work found that at least 49% of remote workers are feeling some symptoms of burnout. This is an alarming proportion, signaling that the productivity gains may not be long-lasting unless managers take action in supporting the psychological well-being of their team.
You can start by granting better access to outdoor spaces and supporting healthy behaviors like sports and mindfulness initiatives. Pay attention that your employees don’t overwork and take their annual holidays. Finally, consider allocating a budget for company-paid therapy sessions.
5. Officeless companies
Since Covid-19 has turned the world upside down, the number of fully distributed companies has gone up, making the “forever remote” mode a distinct post-pandemic workplace trend. Around 16% of companies globally now work fully remotely, without an office or headquarters whatsoever.
Plus, according to our survey, the office workers themselves aren’t that eager to return back to the previous in-office reality.
Before choosing to go officeless (instead of keeping a hybrid office), make sure you evaluate the age and family situation of the majority of your employees. While someone who is 10 or 15 years into their career, with kids and a house in the suburbs will appreciate not having to commute, some Gen Z’ers might feel alienated in a full-remote mode where mentoring and bonding options are restricted to the virtual realm.
6. More frequent team building activities
Partial or fully remote work modes have left countless employees feeling disengaged or isolated. In fact, Buffer’s 2021 survey on the State of Remote Work report found that 16% of remote workers experience communication and collaboration difficulties and another 16% feel outright lonely.
Many employees recognize this problem and try to compensate for the isolation by organizing more frequent team building activities for their distributed teams. For international teams — and in times of very strict epidemiological restrictions — these can be remote team building activities. However, try to organize real-life meetings and team building activities as often as possible to offer the chance for people to meet and bond face-to-face.
7. Online or hybrid meetings
Even as the workers return to offices, meetings in many companies are likely to keep a hybrid element that enables full-fledged participation of remote employees. The most primitive way to hold a hybrid meeting is to ask the in-person participants to open their laptops and join an online meeting on mute, allowing the remote participants to see everyone’s faces as well as documents and presentations shared on screen.
However, this type of “hybrid” meeting simply replicates a remote meeting, not giving the most engaging experience to any of the participants. To hold truly inclusive and high-quality hybrid meetings, consider introducing more advanced technological solutions, for example:
- Equip the room with several high-quality microphones so remote attendees can hear clearly.
- Set up a large screen that could switch between showing the remote attendees and sharing documents and presentations.
- Install a camera or several cameras — so that remote participants can see their on-site teammates as well as content created on whiteboards, etc.
- Test the latest hybrid meeting innovations, e.g., Zoom’s Smart Gallery view that uses AI to recognize and display people’s faces when they speak up in a meeting
If your company plans to continue offering remote work options, then investing in a solid technical setup will help to make meetings better, more enjoyable, and more productive for everyone involved.
8. Online courses and education
During the early stages of the pandemic, the e-learning sector boomed with some companies reporting a 15-fold growth in new learners in spring 2020. People were using the newfound free time to work on their personal development as well as enhance their professional skills. And with unemployment rates in the U.S. spiking to 14.8% in April 2020, many people tried to find ways to re-skill or re-train themselves for new career paths.
In general, according to data by TalentLMS, 78% of respondents pursued training opportunities during the pandemic, with 42% choosing topics linked to their work and 17% going for work-unrelated topics.
This data shows that online learning can be considered an increasingly important part of the post-pandemic work culture. Studies show that intrinsic motivators like learning and growth are extremely important for Millennials and Gen Z, so offering professional development opportunities to staff is a post-pandemic work culture trend that will only grow in importance and relevance.
Whether we like it or not, the post-pandemic work environment is inseparable from the remote and hybrid work principles. Online or hybrid meetings, hybrid offices, and asynchronous work are all the concepts we’ll have to embrace for years to come.
As a manager, you cannot afford to ignore the post-pandemic workplace trends — instead, try staying up to date with them and use them to benefit your personal development, your business, and industry.