Reimagining the Workplace – Creating Flexible Environments

Many of the organizations CBI partners with are beginning to reimagine their workplace and make decisions about how to adapt to associates working in a post-COVID-19 environment. As we work with these organizations to determine what’s next, we decided to share some insights for others in a Reimagining the Workplace series on the CBI Blog. This week, we are focusing on the importance of creating a flexible workplace and looking at how flexible environments offer resilience while still positively impacting an organization’s people and corporate objectives. 

The idea of flexibility in the workplace was gaining popularity even before the COVID-19 pandemic, and now many corporations see it as necessary. A flexible environment offers various benefits including increased associate well-being, productivity and even increased collaboration and engagement. The primary concept of the flexible workplace is built around the idea that certain areas within an environment are made to support unique types of work. A collaboration area with soft chairs, a white board and a monitor might be the perfect place for a daily brainstorming session while an enclosed phone booth area with a table and chair offers a great alternative for a private conversation or heads down working. No longer is it required for employees to be sitting at a desk or in a private office to be successful. 

Another major benefit to creating a flexible environment is that it often helps organizations reduce costs by optimizing real estate. According to a recent workplace study by Knoll, the average annual cost of providing a desk to an employee in a city like New York is $18,000, yet on a typical day desks are in use only 47% of the time*. As companies start to incorporate more flexible workspaces into their environments, there is less of a need for an individual desk for each associate and their overhead costs can decrease dramatically. 

Technology advancements and automation make it easier than ever for organizations to create flexible environments. From the rise of teleconferencing platforms like Webex and Microsoft Teams to the increasing abilities of the cloud and high-speed, wireless internet, individuals can work from virtually anywhere without technological disruption. The ability to move from space to space with the tools needed for that day’s work contributes greatly to the success of the flexible workplace.

Flexible working has become even more prioritized post-pandemic. As organizations being to adapt to new workplace norms, flexible spaces create more opportunities for associate safety and well-being. Collaborative spaces can be built to encourage social distancing and/or virtual work, while also boosting innovation. Additionally, flexible environments have been shown to positively impact a corporate culture in the eyes of associates. As associates are given more freedom and ability to move to various spaces within an office environment, they are more excited to be in the office and more likely to enjoy the work experience.

So, what’s the first step towards creating a more flexible environment? Organizations must thoroughly outline their business objectives and analyze the types of work that is necessary to achieve these goals. This will help determine how the workplace should be redesigned to effectively support organizational priorities. Additionally, employers must think through what kind of experience they want their associates to have while in the office. The answer to this question will help organizations create spaces that enable their employees to be successful while also positively shaping their culture. 

CBI partners with businesses all over the United States to help them develop a successful workplace strategy, and we continue to see an increased desire from our clients to be more strategic and flexible when designing their work environments. We expect these trends to only accelerate in 2021, as corporations bring employees back to the workplace and begin to reimagine the purpose of the office while crafting more resilient and inspiring spaces to achieve future success.

Learn more about CBI and our Workplace Consulting Services here.

Image courtesy of Knoll Inc.

*"the workplace net.work" knoll.com. https://www.knoll.com/document/1353009010024/Knoll-The-Workplace-NetWork.pdf