Evolving Workspaces and Mobility as a Key Factor in Creating the Optimal Hybrid Model

How exactly have employee expectations and needs changed and what should CIOs consider when creating the best hybrid workspace and experience for the future explains Alan Ni, Senior Director, Edge Marketing, Aruba.

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As has already been widely reported, the pandemic caused a great shift in our working patterns and in the workplace – prompting organisations to reconsider the office space and the enterprise network in order to support employees’ evolving expectations and needs. And over two years later, that shift shows no signs of slowing. In fact, as we look to 2023, redesigning the workplace and the network that supports it has become pivotal for organisations that want to achieve better business operations and results, as well as improve employee satisfaction.

Yet, how exactly have employee expectations and needs changed? And what should CIOs consider when creating the best hybrid workspace and experience for the future?

We teamed up with Leesman, a leading global provider of original research on workplace quality and employee satisfaction, to create a report that utilises their insights and large survey database of over 70,000 worker respondents and 125 corporate real estate respondents to answer these questions.

With 93% of corporate real estate leaders surveyed indicating that their organisations plan to adopt hybrid work as standard practice going forward and 94% revealing that they plan to make further physical changes in the workplace to support organisational and/or employees’ needs, the results offer compelling information for CIOs as they map out their goals for next year.

Considering the office as a hub of connection and collaboration

Despite many workplace specialists’ beliefs that the main purpose of the future office is to be a hub of collaboration, Leeman’s findings indicate that the office is becoming more important as a hub of connection, with connection-based activities showing the highest increase in importance over any other work activity.

The office has become a centralised area to connect with colleagues and co-workers, not necessarily on specific tasks or problems in pre-arranged (and large group) formal meetings, but to engage in “informal social interaction” and “informal, unplanned meetings.” The office is a space where employees increasingly want to go to develop relationships and get a deeper sense of community, and more informal spaces to socialise would better support that.

It’s important to note that workers are satisfied with the effectiveness of home-based collaboration and are more satisfied with hybrid-based collaboration than office only. This may be due to the effectiveness of technologies such as online meetings and messaging for collaboration.

Maintaining support for “individual focused, desk-based work”

Both prior to and during the COVID disruption, “individual focused, desk-based work” remained the most important working activity according to Leesman’s survey results, regardless of respondent role, age, and gender, with an 80-90% importance rating.

So, for CIOs who want employees to spend more time working in the office, one of the most fundamental requirements is to support individually focused desk-based work – both in the office and wherever hybrid work gets done.

There is also a difference in attitude between office workers and hybrid workers on fixed computing equipment, with more office workers than hybrid workers selecting this IT feature as important (37%). As for mobile computing, more hybrid workers than office workers find this IT feature important (70%).

Delivering smaller offices and increased workplace mobility

Mobility has also become one of the most desired factors for employees in today’s work environment – and many organisations are already looking to change the physical layouts, forms, and size of their offices to reflect this, as well as to foster open communication and a collaborative culture.

Judging by Leesman’s results, offices are likely to become smaller in the future. Therefore, organisations must improve workspace organisation and flexibility with flex-desking, assigned days, and tighter tools for room booking (supported by an increasing number of IoT devices and measurement systems). At the same time, more organisations are investing in quieter and smaller rooms for working alone or in pairsincreased Wi-Fi network connectivity for the office, and mobile computing equipment.

Replacing fixed computers with mobile equipment

CIOs must also understand which aspects of technology have grown or decreased in importance. According to Leesman’s data, employees are dissatisfied with fixed computing equipment in the office (considering it to be slow and out of date), and IT infrastructure also seems insufficient compared to home working settings. In light of this, CIOs should consider whether fixed IT features are necessary for their business and whether they should be replaced with mobile equipment. This may also bring with it a need to review network speed and quality.

Rethinking IT infrastructure for better business operations

Leesman’s findings make it clear that the redesigned office of the future will benefit from a far more advanced wireless infrastructure to support the full range of devices, users, and platforms and to enable work-from-anywhere mobility. Rethinking IT infrastructure is key to achieving better business outcomes — from increasing employee productivity and engagement, to reducing capital and real estate operating costs, and more.

Build an optimal hybrid experience

Aruba has always maintained that as “people move, networks must follow.” Job satisfaction and performances may improve if organisations better support an optimal hybrid experience that sees the office as a mobile and evolving working space and the network as a key enabler to be an employee satisfaction and performance multiplier.

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