Returning to the office: the destination workplace

Restrictions have mostly been lifted across the UK and in many European countries, meaning that once again many of us are returning to the office. Employees are counting on their companies to continue to safeguard their wellbeing but as we progress towards a less restricted future, management teams will also need to understand what the workforce expects now it’s possible to reopen offices, and this time it’s looking like they’ll be reopening for good. In this blog we discuss what the workplace may look like as we return post-COVID.

Taking stock

Many organisations will have already carried out analysis of which roles transitioned smoothly to remote working and what their workplace model might look like after a long period of adaptation. In some cases, thriving remote working habits have evolved and raised questions as to whether companies still need the traditional office spaces or headquarters once inhabited at all.

The way organisations made agile responses to the pandemic will need to be replicated as the working world transforms once again. Discussions in the boardroom are around hybrid models, phased returns, keeping only frontline operations such as factory floors or warehouses open and permanently instating more flexible, remote working. So, what will offices represent in the future?

What employees are longing for

Its clear things are going to be very different. In our own business it’s fair to say there has been a pendulum swing. We’ve moved from immediate reaction: ‘We’re already set up for remote working, let’s do this!’ – to now: ‘We’re craving collaboration across a lunch table not a screen, we want our homes to be sanctuary’s instead of schools and at least the option to visit a destination to focus.’ Do some of these thoughts resonate with you?

Most modern office spaces had already begun to serve as unique destinations to motivate, inspire and represent employee culture pre-COVID. But, as we no longer need to ‘go to work’ to be working, the office building now needs to serve as a destination.


Office spaces can serve as unique destinations to motivate, inspire and represent employee culture

The office pilgrimage will bring back the demand for an experience culture we have all been starved of. Your employees will now want to see a value add they cannot receive at home; connection with others, affinity with your brand and cultural values, and amenities or perks that make the trip to the office that little bit sweeter.

Thoughtful spaces

Creating a great workplace for all is challenging, you have to take into consideration varying working styles, more generations in one workplace than ever before and a society concerned with hygiene, health and safety. Both technology and design will support organisations to create more thoughtful office spaces for the future.

All workspaces will play a role in helping people find connection again. You will see more collaborative workspaces, with integrated videoconferencing options to link up in-person and work-from-home employees. You might see more usage of mobile apps, to monitor and manage shared-space issues such as parking, or meeting-space booking.


A thoughtfully designed office space, motivate, inspiring and representing employee culture creating a destination for employees

Reflecting DHL’s brand, culture and the international nature of the business throughout
the workspace, resulting in a modern and refreshing environment to work in.

The other element at play will be office environment and branding, and this is no longer about putting your logo on the wall. Employees are looking for emotional connection and visible signs that their health and wellbeing has been taken into consideration. Office branding can be implemented to create an inclusive environment and destination for your team. Inclusivity is proven to drive loyalty and wellbeing, which in turn can lead to a happier team. Your team want to feel part of your brand’s DNA. Read more about this here.

Where to start

If you’re overwhelmed, we recommend starting with people-centric planning. First ask: How do your employees use a space? How many people will visit the office? This will allow simple changes like introducing a booking system and direction on how to plan bespoke working environments. More long-term you can ask: How flexible and sustainable does the space need to be so that your office can be adjusted as priorities in the workforce change?

Need a helping hand?

At Something Big, we have helped a number of our clients create a destination by designing and implementing full office refurbishments that align with the company vision, promote new initiatives and create an inclusive environment.

If you’re starting to think about your working environment and want to discuss options with us ahead of returning to the office, please get in touch and our brand team will be able to support you