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Using Office Design to Seduce Your Remote Workers

Current belief is that working remotely is more appealing than going to the office.

For years, facts, figures and research have backed this up. In 2014, the Office of National Statistics declared that 4.2 million people in the UK were home workers — the highest figures ever.

Two years later, the Trade Union Congress revealed the number of UK employees working from home had increased by a fifth over a decade. While a global survey of around 20,000 business people found many more who work remotely, but not from home.

So why the continued trend? And what can office spaces do to claw back employee interest?

Anywhere but the office — why we prefer working remotely

Isolating cubicles and overwhelming open-plan offices are, in part, to blame for the rise in remote work. Poorly designed office spaces give working in other locations an advantage. This adds to other benefits like:

  • Fewer distractions
  • Cutting commute time
  • Better work/life balance
  • Being closer to clients for meetings
  • Fitting in work time between meetings
  • A wider employee talent pool to recruit from.

Being in control of, and somewhat responsible for, our remote working environment places an onus on us to achieve more. This could well be the reason many global business people feel remote working improves concentration levels. Why? Bringing it back to the UK — a recent YouGov Omnibus survey found that 30% of working adults agreed being away from the office increases productivity.

But not everyone finds remote working a good idea.

Out of sight, out of mind

Working from home could be damaging to your working relationships and your career.

A 2017 Harvard Business Review survey found that ‘Remote employees are more likely to report feeling that colleagues mistreat them and leave them out.’ These office politics can have a negative impact on morale and stress, and from the businesses perspective it can impact productivity and even staff retention.

Management must take extra care to ensure remote workers get the same level of attention they would receive working in the office. But when you don’t physically see someone every day, that can be more of a challenge.

Being out of an employer’s eyeline could mean training and new projects are handed to more familiar faces. Research from the University of Arizona suggests a third of remote workers believed they missed out on support from bosses, and 40% felt disconnected from the company’s vision.

Suddenly career progression becomes much harder.

Turning the focus back on offices

Weighing the negatives against the positives of why people prefer working remotely (i.e. greater concentration, productivity and better work/life balance), the question becomes: what can offices do to make working in the office easier? The recent Leesman Review (Issue 25) has some ideas.

Often, commercial interior design focuses too heavily on collaborative spaces. Although useful, individual working is highly-prized among employees. The ‘Leesman Index’ — data gathered from over 250,000 employees — reveals a huge 93% of respondents need ‘individual, focused work, desk-based’. This is solo time needed after collaborative sessions, to get their ideas ‘down on paper’.

Not only are these findings another nail in the coffin for open-plan design, they’re also a nod to the importance of having the right office equipment.

Referred to as ‘catalyst workplaces’, successful offices should enable alone time — individual work stations, small meeting rooms and quiet zones, complete with important furniture features. Yes, having sofas and soft-seating is fashionable, but desks, chairs and personal storage are still considered essential, as suggested by the index.

Overall, the Leesman Review believes successful workplaces in the eyes of the workforce will nail the “me” space ‘ahead of the “we” space.’

Is your office designed to entice?

Different businesses take different office interior design approaches. If you’re an architect or designer, we’d love to hear about the kind of collaborative and individual workspaces you’re creating.

If you’re a manager or business owner, what impact does remote working have your business?

Tell us what you think on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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