The Evolving Workplace: Time to Move or Improve?

Amid the marked shift to remote and hybrid working models, many employers may have cause to consider whether their current establishment remains fit for purpose and offers value for money. But, while it can be tempting to up sticks and relocate, there is often also a compelling business case for staying put and refurbishing. For employers rethinking their workplace approach, Adrian Gleeson, strategy directory at Rhino Interiors Group, explores the key considerations to determine whether improving or moving is right for you.

The modern workplace is evolving fast. Three years on from the pandemic-induced remote working shift, employees are now accustomed to working flexibly and, in some ways, to the beat of their own drum. They’re also used to being able to work quietly as they need it, in virtual teams, and with all their home comforts at their disposal. Thus the reality is that the traditional office setup that most of us used to spent five days a week in no longer cuts it.

Yet, it would appear that the days of remote working, at least in its entirety, are numbered. A challenging economy continues to see many businesses review post-pandemic flexible arrangements such as hybrid working in a bid to claw back some control. It’s estimated that well over half (58%) of UK employees have been asked to return to the office full time1, while other firms have enforced set working-in-office days.

The problem here is that many existing workplaces may not be fit for the job. Employees needs have changed. More than ever, the office isn’t just about individual, focused work but must serve as a creative and social space where colleagues are able to share ideas and collaborate. It also needs to seamlessly blend the physical and the virtual to make it easier for people on site and at home to work together. The future workplace needs to go beyond static, inflexible places where individuals sit for eight hours a day. It must be agile, adaptable and provide a mix of collaborative hubs and dedicated quiet spaces.

Cue a host of workplace considerations for the modern employer. Principally, how can we create a workplace that is appealing to employees? And would it be more economical to refurbish or relocate? 

Adapting to an Adapting Workforce

To answer the first question, the good news is that adapting your current abode to better serve the evolving workplace requirement doesn’t have to be complex or expensive. Despite what you might think, it doesn’t have to involve a luxurious movie theatre, ping-pong table, beer tap or meditation room.

Rather, it’s about paying careful consideration to how your employees work, where, and who with, and purposefully redesigning the layout to ensure it is conducive to their needs. If, for example, the majority of in-office work that takes place is collaborative, then there might be a case for replacing those old office cubicles with a sweeping open plan layout. Equally, if the social aspect of work is one of the most important parts of your physical workplace, introducing an open lounge area where colleagues, both individually and as groups, can catch up over a coffee and connect is a no-brainer.

Flexibility must be accounted for too. More than ever, employees do not want to be restricted as to how they work. Part of the day might involve focused one-to-ones; another chunk of time might be devoted to a companywide brainstorm. Typically, they’ll also be some scope for solo work too. Here, it’s about supporting employees with things that are movable and changeable, such as partitions and screens, and with more options for places to work. In this way employees are able to, in effect, write their own script for the day.

That’s not to overlook aesthetics either. Even before the pandemic, recent years have seen a movement from factory-like office floors dominated by gloomy greys (think BBC’s the Office) to much more stylish and attractive designs. Employers should use the impetus of the ‘Great Return’ to take this one step further. Think clever colourways, biophilia, high quality furniture, mood-boosting elements and the introduction of more light.

Should You Stay or Should You Go?

To answer the second question, it’s understandable why some businesses may be inclined to take the plunge and move to a new location completely. After all, a fresh start can be exciting for all involved.

However, improving rather than moving can be just as viable an option too. You’re in a location that works for your business, and your employees do not have to go through the upheaval of huge change, which can be daunting. 

It’s also worth considering the wider economic factors too. As interest rates and inflation continue to hit the ceiling, investing in your current location might make better financial sense as you negate the associated legal fees, removal costs and the like. 

Refurbishing the existing space you have can be as expensive or cost-effective as your budget dictates. In some cases it might be, for example, that you are able to re-use some of your existing furniture, helping with your carbon footprint. Alternatively, a simple redesign can make all the difference. Once you’ve decided to stay, this can help with lease negotiations, where your landlord might give financial contribution towards your refurbishment.

If in doubt, the best advice is to seek a workplace design specialist who will take the time to get under the skin of your business, how your employees work and whether the current building can be adapted to suit your new needs and requirements.

A Reason

Ultimately, it’s all about giving your employees a reason to want to come into the office, and keep coming back. Otherwise, the transition to increased office working may be more difficult than it needs to be. Whether this means a complete relocation or a simple refurbishment, making your workplace more attractive and welcoming hinges on creating a space where employees who work there – whether occasionally or full time – are happy to be.