3 Ways Thought Leaders are Thinking About the Future of Workspace

Will Langston
Will Langston|

We often wonder how People & Ops leaders are navigating the changing landscape of workspace, whilst carving out longer term plans for success. So, we called upon major players to discuss some of the biggest issues in workspace right now:

  • Andy Turnbull, Head of People Tech at Bolt
  • Florencia Tettamanti, People and Talent Lead at Primer
  • Akbar Karenga, People and Talent Director at LiSA
  • Christine Ng, Head of Talent & People at Quantum Motion

Why? Well, since COVID lockdowns eased, the office landscape has undergone widespread changes. Whilst there was first a sense of excitement across businesses, eager to see colleagues again after years of interaction through the Zoom lens, today, CFOs and CEOs are walking into the office to be greeted by a sea of empty desks. Not only is this a massive waste of money during a period of economic downturn, it’s a sign that culture, communication and collaboration across the business could be faltering.

But what can be done? How can leaders encourage employees to come back to the office on a more frequent basis, without them feeling forced? Here’s what our panellists had to say…

1. Add a bit of ceremony to the days you’re bringing people in

When asking employees to come into the office, you’re asking them to dedicate time and money to the cause. The earlier starts, the later finishes, the commutes, the costs — all of this means you need to make trips into the office feel worthwhile to those making the effort.

Akbar Karenga, People and Talent Director at LiSA, has always loved the ceremony around in-person working. He properly values being there for the real-time jokes, the after-work socials and the ad-hoc water cooler moments that can’t happen spontaneously over Zoom. This is what makes these visits feel memorable and worthwhile.

Florencia Tettamanti, People and Talent Lead at Primer, concurs, acknowledging that we all have an innate need to belong — whether that’s to something, someone, to an organisation or a team — and regular in-person interaction can help manifest this sense of belonging.

Florencia did remind us, however, that not everyone needs the socialising and the drinks after work to feel that sense of belonging and satisfaction at work.

In fact, she posited that some will just want the bare minimum, meaning People & Ops leaders must come up with other strategies that lend themselves to both the more introverted and extroverted — and that’s where this notion of choice comes in.

“Belonging is such an innate need. We all have to belong to something, to someone, to an organisation, a team, or something, and everybody has their own different ways to belong.”

Florencia Tettamanti, People and Talent Lead at Primer

2. Give your employees the choice to work how they want

Our panellists agreed that flexibility is super attractive to employees of all ages as they’re able to manage their work around their life commitments. 

Christine Ng, Head of Talent & People at Quantum Motion, takes what’s very much an output over input attitude — so long as the key deliverables are being hit, there should be no problem how and where you work. 

We’re the same here at Hubble. We have core working hours where we expect everyone to be online between 11am and 4pm. Outside of that, we’re flexible, so long as the work is getting done to the expected standard.

“I’ve been at Hubble for six and a half years, and one reason for that is because I’ve got the flexibility to work how I want. I feel like I can do better work, and I feel like I have a sense of responsibility towards Hubble for the trust they give me.”

Chai Clarkson, Head of Sales at Hubble

Whilst there’s ongoing debate around how remote setups may be impeding on overall productivity, Florencia felt that most employees feel grateful for the flexibility and therefore don’t want to abuse and, in doing so, lose it.

For business leaders, of course, there’s a toss-up between employee engagement and happiness, with both feeding into one another. But by learning to trust that your hires will not take advantage of the flexibility you give them, you’ll find that remote-first work doesn’t correlate with poorer output.

3. Leverage tech resources to better the employee experience

One thing was clear across the discussion was that, regardless of your workplace setup, it all comes back to understanding and considering the different personality types and ensuring you’re catering to the unique needs of each individual employee.

Part of this can be as simple as ensuring you have the appropriate resources in place so your employees have an outlet, should any work-related or other stressors be impeding on their day to day.

In remote-first settings, you’re less likely to stumble onto a Zoom call and talk about how you’re feeling, but in any case, some employees are more likely to communicate about this than others. Those that are more vocal may just pull aside someone in the organisation whenever they want to have a chat about how they’re feeling and what’s going on, whilst others will not want to talk to their manager. In this instance, the resources need to be there.

Primer and Hubble use Slack-enabled wellbeing service, Spill, for this, so those without therapists can fire off a DM at any point and speak to a trained mental health professional, free of charge. Companies also often offer private medical insurance, which can in most cases cover the cost of therapy and other mental health treatments.

But beyond the realm of mental health, there are other avenues where you can leverage innovative tech resources to better the employee experience. 

Andy Turnbull, Head of People Tech at Bolt, highlighted how the company has used Slack to get rid of huge group emails and continued back and forth on hefty email chains. It’s either a message down a Slack channel, a DM to an individual or a project focus group, or asynchronous work to avoid meeting overload. Bolt also uses Clockwise so employees can more clearly block out their time in their calendar — focus time, meeting overviews and streamlining suggestions, all readily available to all users.

Akbar chimed in to sing the praises of Journey.io also, which he’s used in the past to enjoy team-building activities across distributed teams. From guided cocktail making, to building plant terrariums, this tech makes bonding in the virtual world so much easier. He also mentioned Nintendo-esq Gather Town, which enables you to interact as an avatar in a virtual office, giving you the opportunity to have everything from the water cooler chats to more private moments.

Looking to better the employee experience by offering out access to innovate tech resource? Give these a try!

Thinking about your workspace strategy? Give Hubble a shout!

If you have any questions about your longer term workspace strategy, be sure to check out our Ultimate Guide to Workspace Strategy, and always feel free to contact Hubble’s team of expert advisors at anika@hubblehq.com wherever you are on your journey. 

All of our consultative services are free of charge as we work tirelessly to help your business find the workspace solution that works best for you. 

We are here to help your team thrive.

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