While the modern workplace has evolved steadily since the early 2000s, the recent pandemic upended almost every aspect. And now, businesses are pivoting to create relevant office spaces for better productivity and increased employee satisfaction. 

According to Michelle Cleverdon, Colliers' SVP of Workplace Advisory, a surge in flexible work environments has become a defining trend of today's workplace landscape. (A full report can be found here.)

"Evidence is emerging that flexible working arrangements benefit both employers and employees," Cleverdon says. "Beyond the traditional metrics of productivity and efficiency, organizations that embrace flexibility see significant improvements in employee engagement and well-being." 

Flexible Work Environments Produce Tangible Benefits

For example, employees working hybrid schedules report higher levels of satisfaction and better work-life balance, notes Cleverdon, contributing to improved mental health and stress management. Additionally, research shows that publicly traded companies that embrace flexibility outperform their peers in revenue growth.

Companies are also taking it a step further by including employees in workspace design and prioritizing environments that reflect an updated "purpose of place." Cleverdon says that by collaboratively creating spaces that meet changing needs, organizations enhance employee satisfaction while still optimizing the use of office resources.

"They recognize the importance of designing spaces that protect the needs of focus and privacy while also fostering belonging, gathering, collaboration and knowledge transfer," she says. "These new environments support diverse work styles and facilitate meaningful interactions."

Achieving Return-to-Work Harmony

As more employees physically return to offices, businesses seek to balance employee expectations and leadership preferences, according to Cleverdon. An emerging trend is the alignment of space design with organizational purpose, such as addressing increased ratios of collaboration, social spaces and individual work settings.

Cleverdon sees companies embracing a range of flexible work solutions, investing in technology integration, and providing transparent communication around the rationale for office presence, she says.  

"Facilities supporting gathering, such as conference or flexible training space and concierge services for on-site support, are becoming integral components of office design," notes Cleverdon.

Keeping Work Space Relevant

Instead of reverting to pre-pandemic norms, organizations are considering what's missing from their current spaces and recognizing that increased on-site employee presence requires a balance of spaces for collaboration and individual work. 

"This new value proposition sits at the intersection of space, technology, and people enablement as a placemaking framework," says Cleverdon. She adds that a "data-informed and evidence-based approach" to decision-making is essential for framing the next chapter of work culture.

"Careful spatial planning and zoning are necessary to maintain a harmonious work environment," says Cleverdon, adding that businesses may need to adjust ratios for alternate work points supporting different work modes. 

Adaptable spaces that can be configured in real-time are also becoming increasingly important. Cleverdon says that flexibility in space design is critical to seamlessly provide space for collaborative sessions, individual work and social gatherings. 

"Understanding these dynamics is essential for creating a workspace that aligns with employees' evolving needs and fosters productivity and engagement," says Cleverdon. 

For more thought leadership from Colliers, click here.


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