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Almost overnight, the pandemic fundamentally altered the way we work, forcing both employers and employees to embrace the idea of working from home. But now, as vaccination rates rise, offices re-open and employee expectations around flexible working models grow, business leaders everywhere are asking the same question: what’s the role of an office in a post-Covid world?
This week on the BoF Podcast, Jane Clay, strategic director at workplace design consultancy Gensler, joins editor-in-chief Imran Amed to discuss why offices are more than just functional workplaces. Office spaces are crucial for young employees to benefit from mentoring and guidance through shadowing their more experienced colleagues. “If you have a lot of people in your organisation who are quite young and may need a lot of mentoring and a lot of looking after, in the sense of their growth and learning, then it might not be such a great idea to not have them around you [in an office],” said Clay.
Clay recommends taking a more holistic view, establishing how shared spaces can creating a sense of culture, community and belonging. “Whether you are in fashion, whether you are in art and design, whether you are in fintech, and actually whether you are legal, I think no matter what arena of work you are in the office will be that totem for culture and connection.”
As organisation leaders plan to redesign their office, Clay said sustainability must be factored into decision-making from the start. “There is something in the idea of how do we reposition real estate? Why build something new when you can reposition something old?” she said. “There is a relevance in the old that also has a great story when it comes to sustainability.”
While Zoom calls have been democratising during the pandemic, the gradual return to the office in a hybrid working model is likely to create challenges. “While we have all been in our own little boxes [on Zoom calls], we have all had the same experience, but as soon as you start to have some in and some out [of offices] we have to be very mindful,” Clay said. “This means communications and behavioural protocols really have to be looked at.”