Before Shira Berg, 30, goes to her workplace, she reserves a desk in advance.
The director of Autumn Communications helped her New York office implement a shared workspace system. With clients like Amazon, Instacart and Goldbelly, the PR agency doubled during the pandemic. However, complying with Covid guidelines with only 27 desks for 45 employees required some coordination.
Also, like so many other offices that have a return to work plan, not everyone has to come by all the time.
“There is nothing to replace this personal collaboration and Facetime, but it may not have to happen every day,” said Berg.
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More people will be returning to the office soon, but it may not be the same as when they left.
Reserving a “hot desk” or “hoteling” is suddenly a popular approach. It enables companies to save money with less footprint while adapting to new, more flexible ways of working.
After the pandemic, most workers still want to work from home at least temporarily instead of commuting five days a week. Some even said they would consider changing jobs when their company returned to full-on-site operations.
By that point, 30% of workers would prefer to work remotely in some way and would look elsewhere for another remote or hybrid job if their current employer didn’t give them the opportunity, according to a survey of HR professionals in June from the Society for Human Resource Management.
For the most part, employers respond with plans for hybrid agreements.
In a recent McKinsey survey, 9 out of 10 companies said they will combine remote and on-site work, although most also said they haven’t worked out the details yet.
A separate survey by Mercer, polling nearly 600 employers in May, found that 70% of companies with existing plans will adopt a hybrid model that will be a combination of in-person and remote work.
As new work arrangements take shape, there will be more and more shared desks and workspaces, according to Ruhal Dooley, a human resources knowledge advisor In the Society for human resource management.
The main benefit is that the work areas don’t have to be so large to accommodate them all.
Human Resources Knowledge Advisor at the Society for Human Resource Management
“When we have flexible hours and people work at different times and on different days, the main benefit is that the work areas don’t have to be that big to accommodate everyone,” said Dooley.
Monitoring who is sitting where and when also helps companies comply with new cleaning and hygiene standards and reduces traffic jams.
Flexible working hours are particularly good for younger workers, says Dooley, who “haven’t shown the same routine need” and also working women who have had to reduce their working hours or take leave from work to take on additional tasks at home.
The downside is that employees forego personal touches that could make them feel good, such as photos of their family or a preferred office chair.
“It’s comforting to have your own space,” said Dooley.
Although it varies by industry, hoteling is already widespread in locations like San Francisco and Seattle, according to tech companies Amy Yin, founder of OfficeTogether, an office reservation and planning software company based in San Francisco and New York.
But others will follow suit, said Yin. “We saw a huge wave of companies inquiring about plans for the fall.” As restrictions eased and vaccination rates rose, many more companies started working out their plans for September, she said.
“We are in a major experimental phase.”
In an April 7 letter to shareholders, Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase said, “Remote working will change the way we manage our properties.”
“We will quickly move to a ‘more open seating plan’ where digital tools help manage the seating arrangement as well as necessary amenities like conference rooms,” he said. “As a result, we only need an average of 60 places for every 100 employees.”
(At the same time, the new corporate headquarters of the bank in New York, which is currently under construction, will offer space for between 12,000 and 14,000 employees.)
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