We're slowly emerging from home office, and despite its relative success, the Australian workforce is enthusiastic about the possibility of returning to the workplace.

So enthusiastic that we're ahead of the pack globally, with other parts of the world, particularly the US and UK, showing less apparent readiness.

But what is the modus operandi, how will office spaces operate and what safety protocols will be enforced with COVID-19 still around?

Many employers and CEOs want their staff to return to the office in some capacity and have latched onto hybrid working models. That is, blending remote work with some time spent at the professional workplace every week for connecting with others and completing specific tasks.

We feed on the energy an office space provides and yearn for the connections we lost in 2020.

Why do people want to return?

It took a pandemic to realise that working from home isn't just possible but beneficial to people's productivity. So if that's the case, why bother coming back if the arrangement works?

By and large, Australians are social. We feed on the energy an office space provides and yearn for the connections we lost in 2020. Furthermore, our diverse workforces give us access to professionals from backgrounds, resulting in promising collaboration opportunities and successful co-creation.

As a working population, we're also new to the concept of remote working, something which has existed in other corners of the globe before the health crisis hit. Although we've had a year to adapt, working from home is still a relatively new idea that not everyone has taken to with open arms.

A workspace has acted as a leveller with employees having access to the company's amenities, internet, their desks and other essential tools that make their tasks easier and faster to complete.

While some people adapted to home-style working with ease, others haven't been so lucky, stuck in non-conducive makeshift workstations through no fault of their own.

While some people adapted to home-style working with ease, others haven't been so lucky, stuck in non-conducive makeshift workstations through no fault of their own.

What does a hybrid work style look like?

The hybrid work style being implemented by companies around Australia is based on flexible working. The consensus is that people will return to the office part-time two or three days a week or at a company’s discretion.

Hopefully, working from home and the office brings a sense of balance. At the workplace with colleagues, you can focus on the tasks specifically designed for an office environment like group work and engage in the office banter that you've missed.

However, at home allows you to concentrate on tasks requiring quiet and minimal distraction.

Will the office setup look the same?

Anyone wanting to return to the same office with the same rules will be let down. On your return, you'll find the office environment transformed in the following ways.

1. Shut Down Or Partial Shut Down of Collaborative Spaces

For starters, social distancing will remain, which means communal spaces may either be shut down or restricted. This means there will be a distinct absence of water cooler conversations or the chance to congregate and relax in lounges.

2. Restricted Use Of Meeting Rooms

Unfortunately, you may not be bidding goodbye to Zoom calls yet. Catching up with a room full of clients or staffers could pose a severe health risk.

3. Health and safety protocol

Handshakes haven't formed part of our lives for many months and won't for many more. Unfortunately, shaking a business associate's hand after finalising a deal isn't recommended.

Keeping physical distance is another essential factor where desks should be spaced apart and with plexiglass acting as a physical barrier between neighbours.

Wearing a mask throughout the day remains a non-negotiable to keep people safe.

4. No Hot Desking

If you freelance and like the versatility of hot-desking, you will have to make adjustments by securing a spot ahead of time via mobile apps. Not being able to venture to work at a whim may seem like an inconvenience, but it's to ensure that safety measures are obeyed.

If you freelance and like the versatility of hot-desking, you will have to make adjustments by securing a spot ahead of time via mobile apps.

How Do You Encourage Employees to return?

Not everyone shares in the delight about heading back to the office. Individuals might prefer home working or have concerns about being in social spaces.

Ultimately, you need to consider your team's wants and needs.

Some companies have incentivised office returns with free parking. After months of minimal travel, having to locate park spots is a real stress and frustration.

Other businesses have introduced staggered working hours, done for two reasons. The first is to reduce office capacity; the second is to ensure that commuting on public transport occurs at non-peak hours.

For workers who can't return to the office for health reasons or personal matters, make sure there are tools set up to allow for virtual connections so that no one is left out of the loop.

What are some challenges of hybrid working?

Although a novel and exciting concept, hybrid working presents specific challenges for employees and employers.

For employees, there's a distinct lack of routine. Even if schedules are drawn up, always being on the move and constantly switching from remote working to professional office mode can be a little upending. In addition to that, full-time remote workers might feel excluded since most of their coworkers frequent the office.

Cybersecurity issues have been a constant threat in the digital age and aggravated by remote working for employers. Beefing up security and deploying specific measures, although necessary, could also pose a set of problems. Managing a dispersed workforce might also be problematic for supervisors and restricted to screen time. Furthermore, not being able to approach staff at a moment's notice to discuss things is an inconvenience.

Furthermore, not being able to approach staff at a moment's notice to discuss things is an inconvenience.

What does the future of hybrid working look like?

The future looks uncertain, mainly because this way of working has never been practised. One guarantee is that the standard office life as we knew before is all but disappeared from society.

The initial changes start with reconfiguring spaces. The days of densely populated, open-plan office spaces are behind us for now and replaced with smaller offices. In the future, the office will most likely have a skeleton staff and rotating workers who will come and go within reason.

Of course, it might be in the company's interest to establish guidelines or schedules for when employees are working at home versus at the office so that there's structure, rather than chaotic comings-and-goings of staff.

Something else that needs to be considered is investing in the correct tools and technology. Will office computers, headsets and hardware be supplied and what about software?

Can workers be able to remote access via the company's VPN without difficulties? What channels will allow for retail time communications between remote workers and in-person employees at the office?

Considering we're in the early stages, many kinks still need to be ironed out through a trial and error process.

Let us guide you

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