Reimagining the Workplace: The Future of Collaboration Styles & Workplace Habits

Image courtesy of Knoll Inc.

Over the last decade, the concepts of collaboration and shared workspaces have become the norm in the workplace. For many organizations, the most innovative and creative work is being done in collaborative areas, and businesses have realized that employees thrive on shared spaces that allow them to connect to their work and to each other. Although many companies transitioned to remote working last year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we do not expect the dynamic of the shared workspace to go away when organizations start bringing the workforce back to the office. In fact, collaboration and shared space will take on a new meaning with more flexibility, enhanced technology and a focus on wellbeing becoming important factors in the post-pandemic work environment.

A few trends we expect to see regarding collaboration in the future workplace include: 

1. A unique balance between the new dynamic of digital and physical “phigital” collaboration styles. 
A primary driver that allows organizations to increase collaboration and enable flexible workspaces is technology. Prior to COVID-19, we were seeing an increased number of clients utilizing space reservation systems, enhanced video conferencing solutions and online collaboration tools. This trend will be even stronger in the post-COVID workplace as technology will play a large role in ensuring safe and effective collaboration. 

Technology will also play a key role in the workplace when it comes to people and the workforce. It’s one thing to create collaborative spaces onsite, but many organizations will utilize collaborative technology to train and manage remote employees when adapting to the hybrid model that we expect to see emerging this year and in the future.

 2. Designing collaborative areas to maximize personal space and encourage social distancing. 
Aside from normal safety protocols and the de-densification of spaces, there is a lot of new guidance and considerations being created for maintaining social distancing in the workplace without losing the benefits of collaboration and shared spaces. Many companies are looking at integrating video booth type spaces to support virtual engagements and collaboration, while others might shift to a culture of quicker, in-person meetings that are held in breakrooms or larger spaces instead of the close quarters of the traditional conference room. 

Although there will be modifications made to collaborative spaces, we expect that the modern office will become even more of a collaborative hub as a result of the new hybrid model of work many organizations are moving to adapt. In a Knoll Whitepaper titled “Hybrid Work Series: Planning and Designing for the Flexible, Unassigned Workplace,” it is noted that although the pandemic made organizations realize that associates can be just as effective working remotely, the physical office will still be a place where employees gather for the collaborative, in-person meetings that drive strategy and innovation. 

3. There will be a new expectation around workplace habits from employees as they reenter the workplace. 
After a year of working remotely, there will most certainly be a changing expectation from associates when they return to the office.

John Kline, Workplace Strategy Lead for CBI says, “Individuals are going to demand even more choice and flexibility in the post-pandemic workplace. Associates will want to choose where they work, how they work and when they come into the office. Organizations are going to have to plan for this desire for flexibility and freedom and adjust their workplaces accordingly. Companies that do this well will be the ones that succeed in the future, and those that aren’t able to adapt will face challenges.”

With these new trends there will be a new energy that we see in the workplace moving forward. As organizations plan for more flexibility and new collaborative styles emerge, we believe the physical. workplace will become an energetic core where individuals still gather to innovate and create. The collaborative workplace will continue to offer connections to space, team members and ideas, and it is important for organizations to embrace well-planned spaces that help achieve their unique corporate objectives. 
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