For many companies, the future of work has arrived. No longer bound to the 9-to-5, five-day-a-week work model that was standard pre-pandemic, companies have embraced flexible work arrangements, offering their employees the freedom to choose where and when they work. Industrious’ CEO and co-founder Jamie Hodari recently spoke on Bisnow’s panel Fit for Flex: Understanding the Flexibility of the Modern Workplace. Here are four key takeaways from that discussion.

Employees –not employers -are driving change in the workplace.

By virtue of the office space, it used to be that employers determined what employees should do and where they should be. But now, it’s employees that are driving change.

“A lot of the strategies that are coming out of the pandemic…share this sort of fundament of starting with what people need in their lives. What are employees asking for?” says Hodari. For many, that means a more fluid approach to the workweek, one that allows employees the ability to choose the schedule and the environment that best supports them—whether that means coming into the office two or three days a week, monthly, or only on a need-to-collaborate basis.

It’s about flexible space only for those individuals who need it,” says panelist Kofi Gyekye, co-founder and CPO of workplace experience platform Lane. “So it’s me choosing what I want as an individual, not the other way.”

The office continues to evolve.

Since the start of the pandemic, the role of the office has shifted, and many companies are changing their workplace strategies accordingly. The office is not dead, according to Rachel Wachtel, who runs the Workplace Solutions group at Brookfield Properties. “[But] space is more important than ever. It might be about how space is configured, and it might be what amenities are in the space, but space will continue to remain a focal point for everybody.”

Some companies are downsizing their main headquarters and creating mid-size and smaller outposts; others are still trying to work out what they need. “It’s about all of the firms that are going through the ‘What if?’ and ‘What am I going to be?’ and ‘How are we evolving?,’” says Wachtel. “All of the space types that are being offered in the market now are hugely valuable in terms of helping these larger organizations think about [those questions].”

Meanwhile, new ways of approaching the workplace have emerged. “The walls are coming down on the way people think of what their workplace is. The aperture is wider. It’s more fluid,” says Hodari. For example, a couple of companies working with Lane, a workspace experience platform, have opened up their offices to all of their clients, which helps build relationships and extends the corporate culture to people beyond direct hires. “I think that’s a massive shift, because it’s not [just] about the employees anymore,” says Gyekye.

Office spaces optimize the employee experience.

Because many employees have the option to work remotely, office spaces need to be attractive –safe, comfortable, empowering, and inspiring – in order to incentivize people to come into the office. Part of that is leveling up with amenities such as fitness centers, bike rooms, food and beverage offerings, and tech. Another part of it is creating purpose-driven experiences that support employees in doing their best work, such as meeting other people, informal interactions, and education. “What people…forget is how great it is to be around your colleagues and how collaboration is essential to be done face-to face,” says Wachtel.

Providing these enhanced employee experiences is one way that can help companies compete for –and retain –top talent, but more importantly, it represents the company on a broader level. “This really comes back to how companies are thinking about the culture that they’re driving,” says Wachtel. “Part of that is through the built environment, but a lot…has to do with the overall tone of the organization.”

Technology is key.

It can be challenging to create a seamless experience for a distributed workforce that’s spread out in offices in different cities. This is where technology plays a crucial role. “If you’re asking people to come to the office, you can’t afford to have that friction where they can’t get on the network or they can’t use their phone to get into a space… That is the opposite of what we’re trying to get people back into the office for,” says Jeremy Bernard, CEO of North America for essensys, a global software and technology provider for the office sector including Industrious. Instead, “it’s for collaboration, it’s for culture, it’s for cooler talk, and everyone getting to be with each other and share stories.”

Having a proper digital infrastructure and smart access space management system can help create these experiences, enabling teams to interact and function effortlessly within the office. Data security is also a consideration; by using a private network, companies can make employees feel more comfortable working from anywhere without compromising digital security.

When it comes to creating a strong company culture for distributed teams, allowing space for change isn’t just about preparing for the unknown. It’s about building a better working environment that fosters innovation, adaptability, and responsiveness in order to benefit both your employees and your bottom line.

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