Magnet or mandate? Creating a positive hybrid workplace

The big workspace question of 2024 is magnet or mandate? As companies bring employees back to the workplace, will they enforce compulsory office hours or create an environment that will naturally encourage their return. Another way to think about this is an invite vs a summons. An invite is generally considered positive: you have a choice to go to a place and spend time with a group of people. A summons is mostly considered negative: you are ordered to appear at a particular location at a certain time. Which would you prefer?

The two biggest costs to any business are employees and premises. As little as 5 years ago it was perfectly normal to expect most of your workforce to be in the office for 8+ hours 5 days a week or as Dolly Parton put it “workin’ 9 to 5 what a way to make a livin’”. This made the cost of those buildings worthwhile, and you could see the effort your staff were putting in.

We are open, welcome back!

A different way of working

Then one day it was mandatory to work from home. Those who had never had this option suddenly had to adapt to a different style of working. The expensive offices unexpectedly had no purpose, yet they still had the same cost. Some people thrived in a different environment and found they had better work life balance. Others hated the isolation and lack of collaboration – video conferencing has a valuable place in business but it’s not the same as being in a room with someone especially when they freeze mid-sentence.  

Now we have a split workforce – those that want to be in the office and those who relish home-working. The office has many positives including collaboration, team building, inspiring ideas, socialisation, training, introductions (especially to new employees) and solving problems including IT! The common theme is people – they simply don’t work if there are no other people in the office. So, do you tell your employees they HAVE to be in the office 3/4/5 days a week to make these positives happen? Mandating office time does not create a positive environment especially when people now know they can do their work from home – because they had to do it. However, creating a positive environment which encourages these behaviours could make all the difference. 

Cisco have been working to create a new hybrid environment in New York, Paris, Atlanta, and Chicago.

“Though hybrid work is changing the world in profound ways, the physical workspace remains a critical asset for any organization. But dehumanizing rows of cubicles and rigid 9-5 workdays are out. Today’s workers demand flexibility. And the office needs to be a magnet, not a mandate: a space so inviting and supportive of collaboration and creativity that it’s hard to resist (but not every day!).” 

Creating a positive hybrid workplace

Creating an inviting environment is something cadm have had to think about recently. In our UK office we have a multi-desk office space with a meeting room directly from it. It’s a good space but with glass walls and solid floors the sound from meetings travelled into the main workspace. The table in the meeting room was small and round with 4 chairs – a standard set up. We wanted the meeting space to be more usable and less disruptive to encourage people to come into the office. Our resident designer redesigned the space, added carpets to help absorb some of the sound and replaced the table with a sit-stand meeting space big enough for 6-8 people and with integrated power and conferencing capabilities. We have created a more positive environment where people will want to come in and collaborate. 

Many of our clients have also had to tackle this problem and have begun adding value to the workplace through mentoring opportunities, offering outside classes such as yoga and meditation areas, and encouraging charity fundraisers where a booth will be set up in the main area for people to donate and the company will match anything raised. These are just a few simple examples of what you can do to encourage people to return to the office. 

It may seem easier to simply tell people they must be in the office but if this creates a negative environment isn’t a little effort to make people want to come in worthwhile?

Accordant being shown on a team call

Take a look at our hybrid working tools to help you manage your workspace