Reshaping workplaces to prioritise connection and creativity

Published on : 7/31/23
Reading time : 3 min
  • Hybrid working is here to stay, which means companies must reshape their workplaces around it. Not because of concerns around productivity but rather to support innovation. Because having fewer social connections isn’t just affecting employee wellbeing. It’s also stifling the ‘light-bulb’ moments that drive every business forward.

    Brave new world of work

    Our latest Work Experience Tracker survey conducted with YouGov showed that 75% of UK employees work at home at least one day a week. It also showed that hybrid workers spend on average 2.2 days a week in the workplace. Seeing colleagues was the key factor for travelling in, and time and cost were the key factors for staying home.

    In the space of just three years, we’ve witnessed a fundamental change in the world of work. Employees have welcomed the extra flexibility and the expected productivity hit didn't arrive. Yet this apparent win-win isn’t quite the full picture.

    Missing the human touch

    Strong teamwork is essential to productivity, and in many ways remote working improved it. Experienced teams could collaborate instantly, for longer, and in meeting rooms that were always available.

    New joiners, on the other hand, often found it alienating. With no way to ‘sense’ the company culture or team dynamic, it was harder to develop that sense of belonging that underpins high performance.

    Today, with employees reporting worsening well-being, employers are realising what’s been lost to hybrid working: supportive connections that spark great ideas.

    You may also like: Improving employee engagement in a hybrid-working model

    Connection vs collaboration

    Collaboration has structure and purpose whereas connections are fluid and unplanned. The former gets the job done, but the latter draws people into offices.

    We shape workplaces for some of the biggest companies and we’re seeing space use flipped on its head. Pre-pandemic, you might find 20% dedicated to social spaces like cafes, but now it’s as high as 50%. That’s because people can complete focused work almost anywhere; it’s the human interaction they crave.

    Meeting rooms don't build social bonds. They’re built up in coffee breaks, by chance at the water cooler and over good food. These moments help people blow off steam, re-energise, take advice and meet new people. It’s the time and space they need to innovate.

    Designing interpersonal spaces

    If human interaction is the vital ingredient, how do we bake it in to the workplace?

    Having social spaces is a great start, but the whole experience needs designing around it. From the moment employees walk through the door, they need a human experience based on comfort and warmth. They need more chances to talk on the way from A to B. They need delicious food that seems personal and a feeling they can’t replicate in the cafes on the street.

    More than ever, workplaces need to create reasons to bring people together. Whether it’s tasting sessions, cookery classes or cocktail making, it needs to be a reason that works for their people. Finding the right solution requires actionable insight. And for that, we need data.

    Recommended for youHow the net zero office can drive your business forward

    Perfect ingredients for innovation

    No IoT sensor can measure workplace innovation, but there are myriad data points that can help build the picture.

    There’s footfall, arrival time, dwell time, transactions, pre-order volumes, satisfaction ratings and food choices. Then there are food waste calculators, carbon footprint labelling and consumption trends. Our data lab team has built a comprehensive tool, 4SITE, to collect, measure and analyse it all. It helps to both monitor performance and also forecast usage, enabling an even tighter focus on space requirements and employee needs.

    This data doesn't just add value around food service either. It can measure how much a workplace encourages the connections people need.

    Making connectivity the new normal

    For a workplace that truly stimulates innovation, everything from the space to the technology to the services need to work in perfect harmony. People want to feel part of the whole even if they don't do the Monday-to-Friday.

    We know that's true, because we redesigned our own London HQ to prioritise human interaction. The results are clear. The sensor data we've seen shows that colleagues prefer to work more in communal areas than at their own workstations. Team spirit has extended beyond the 9-5 too, with spaces now doubling up as social hotspots.

    Sparking creativity in the workplace

    The pandemic proved without question that remote collaboration works. People made an almost instant switch to digital in their lives and their work, and something that once seemed alien now seems wholly unremarkable.

    Yet Covid-19 also proved the vital importance of workplace experience to long-term success. Well-being diminished as connections reduced and that loss of social muscle tone will take time to rebuild. Indeed, recent research shows that only 37% of global businesses are driving value from their employee experience. Rebalancing the workplace in favour of connection and belonging will ignite that spark of creativity that’s essential to driving businesses forward. 

    You can learn more about the evolving needs of the post-pandemic workforce in our Work Experience Tracker.


    Vital Spaces

    Are you being brave enough to change?

    Learn More