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Instead of accepting "WFH Fridays" as the norm, here's how to maximise your office space

Instead of accepting "WFH Fridays" as the norm, here's how to maximise your office space

The future of work isn’t about simply returning to the old ways (and the office five days a week). Rather, it is about creating a hybrid environment that harnesses the best of both worlds, Erwin Chong, Group Head of Corporate Real Estate Administration and Strategy at DBS Bank writes.

In JLL’s global real estate trend in 2024 outlook report, more organisations are mandating office attendance, citing potential productivity gains as one of the main reasons for asking people to return to office.

The irony of this? The report also shared that most employees feel more productive at home, citing noise and lack of privacy for focused work among key barriers to working from the office. A recent survey conducted by Randstad and published by CNA also shared that 1 in 2 workers in Singapore will quit their job if asked to be in office more often.

These underscore the enduring value of the physical workspace and the importance of creating environments that cater to the evolving needs of the workforce. However, a one-size-fits-all approach may not be a panacea in this era of hybrid work. Instead, the sweet spot lies in embracing the concept of synchronicity and implementing purposeful workspace design – two key pillars that will shape the future of work and anchor the continued relevance of the physical office.

DBS' wellness space.
DBS' wellness space.

Humans crave human connections

The office has changed, according to WeWork’s inaugural Global Office Trends report in February 2024. Employees want an office reimagined for collaboration and social interaction while more business leaders are demanding spaces that support company culture and productivity.

Synchronicity or the art of orchestrating meaningful interactions and experiences within a hybrid work environment, is crucial for fostering engagement, productivity, and a sense of belonging among employees. It's about capitalising on those serendipitous encounters, chance conversations, and moments of shared purpose to spark innovation and collaboration.

To foster synchronicity and create the opportunities for those “watercooler moments” in the office, companies can focus on these three key strategies: leveraging technology, being people-centred and reimagining “non-peak” working days.

First, technology is a boon in this new era of hybrid work, and companies should leverage advanced scheduling tools and collaborative platforms to enable employees to collaborate seamlessly across physical and virtual spaces. Managers can further leverage these tools to distribute in-office days strategically, ensuring a balance between individual focus time and collaborative activities.

Second, managers must remember that every employee is different and therefore has their own preferences with regards to hybrid work. Recognising and accommodating individual work styles and preferences is key to optimising the blend of in-office and remote work, thereby maximising productivity and employee satisfaction.

Third, instead of accepting "work-from-home Fridays" as the norm, organisations can transform Fridays into “Fun Fridays” for team building, social bonding, and employee engagement. Research has consistently highlighted the positive impact of workplace friendships on wellbeing and business outcomes. By organising activities, town halls, or even volunteer initiatives on Fridays to foster teamwork and bonds is a strong raison d’etre for employees to return to office.

Joyspace at DBS.
Joyspace at DBS.

From functional workplaces to purposeful workspaces

Workspace design can also facilitate serendipitous interactions and boost in-office collaboration. By leveraging behavioural science and environmental design principles, organisations can create spaces that inspire, connect, and foster a sense of belonging.

In DBS, we have run experiments and focus groups to better understand our employees’ behaviours and usage needs. Using the insights gathered, we redesigned our workplaces into purposeful workspaces, with areas specially carved out to drive social connections, wellness and ideation.

For example, the pantries in our office are called Social Hubs for a good reason – they are more than just a place to refill water bottles or grab a quick snack. Beyond its practical amenities, the pantry serves as a destination space for interaction and collaboration with its informal layout and furniture that could double up for dining or work purposes.

Companies can also look at setting aside dedicated wellness spaces that are made visible, cosy and inviting with privacy pods to provide a sanctuary for employees to recharge during work. To spark ideations, companies can consider transforming staid meeting rooms into ideation rooms by incorporating customisable and movable furniture to stimulate productivity and creativity.

The future of work isn’t about simply returning to the old ways (and the office five days a week) but rather, it is about creating a hybrid environment that harnesses the best of both worlds.

By embracing synchronicity and purposeful workspace design, organisations stand to benefit from improved employee engagement and productivity, which may translate to stronger brand equity and business outcomes.

The key lies in understanding that employees are not just seeking flexibility; they crave connection, purpose, and a sense of belonging. Organisations that prioritise these needs through synchronicity and purposeful office design will be well-positioned to thrive in the future of work with an engaged workforce.

Ideation rooms at DBS Asia Central
An ideation room at DBS Asia Central.

Photos / Provided by DBS

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