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WorkSpace Wednesday: Workplace Trends to Keep Watching


Office with greenery
Image: Prostock-studio -
The latest big news around the COVID-19 where-you-work revolution came earlier this week with Google’s decision to allow most employees to stay put working from home through July 2021.
Google’s decision is reflective of the undying uncertainty around the pandemic. Where we are a year from now is truly anybody’s guess, but our ability to return to our old ways doesn’t seem likely to happen any time soon. For many, the idea of returning to the office seems like a lark.
The reasons for this are myriad, but fear of the physical office environment is among them. All those buttons to press! The shared spaces! The nasty air circulating through outdated ventilation systems! As I wrote in a recent piece on our sister site, WorkSpace Connect, it’s easy to see why anybody who absolutely doesn’t need to be in the office and can continue working from home unfettered by disruption would want to keep doing so.
Despite the complications of the day, the value of the workplace for bringing people together doesn’t change, as Melissa Marsh, founder and executive director of PLASTARC, a social research, workplace innovation, and real estate strategy firm, shared with me for that article, “Staying the Course on Workplace Trends.”
In fact, generational research shows that Gen Z (born after 1996) employees have a harder time accepting the WFH norm as their Gen X colleagues (born between 1965 and 1976), as Irwin Lazar, a VP with Nemertes Research, wrote this week on WorkSpace Connect. In his post, “The WFH Future: One Size Doesn’t Fit All,” Lazar explains: “That younger generation is just starting out in the workforce and is reliant on establishing personal relationships to build networks, achieve visibility for their efforts, and tap into the knowledge and experience of co-workers, activities that are much more difficult to do when the only intra-company interactions are through video conferencing and team chat.”
Anybody desirous of returning to the office sooner rather than later can take heart in this message from Marsh: “The office is still going to be a place of productivity, a place of sharing and delivering culture, a place of expressing values through amenities.”
She holds that optimism based on her belief that companies that had recognized the importance of revitalizing office spaces before the pandemic struck aren’t going to shy away from them now. And, I’d add, companies that hadn’t yet embraced these trends must surely recognize the importance of doing so now. You can read about the trends in a bit more detail over at WorkSpace Connect, but in a nutshell, they are:
  1. Wellness, including a technical acknowledgment of a building’s role in workers’ health and well-being
  2. Smart Buildings & User Experience — this is about the technology interface to build systems
  3. Sustainability & Work-Life Balance — this, of course, is no longer just about not having to deal with a grueling commute or being home in time for dinner
Speaking to trends such as these, Marsh asserted: “This COVID-19 moment in time is an accelerant, not a changing of the course.”
Marsh regularly shares her insight with me for WorkSpace Connect, and will be doing so next week as part of the Enterprise Connect Digital Conference & Expo. She’ll be my guest on Wednesday, Aug. 5, at 2:45 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. ET for a fireside chat on balancing distributed work and office work. Join us!