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Designing a Workspace for the Remote-First Era


The pandemic gave organizations license to reimagine the very purpose of a workspace.

Until recently few questioned the idea of going to work at an office, but now that’s a decision many individuals expect to make for themselves every day. Employees have expressed a desire to be able to work wherever they are most productive and do not feel the need to commute to the office 5-days a week. Today, organizations that want to attract and retain top talent need to provide their staff with an improved user experience at the office.

So, what does a workspace purpose-built for the post-pandemic era look like? Here are a few key principles to keep in mind.

1. The right work for the right setting

Before the pandemic, for some workers, they only had one place where their work could be accomplished, and that single piece of real estate had to be adaptable to different work styles, tasks, and teams. The space where the software engineer spent hours piecing together code, for example, had to fit under the same roof as the meeting space where product teams collaborated on new features.

Today, however, there is no longer just one place where work gets done, and that’s allowed individuals and teams to better match the day’s objectives with the day’s workspace. As a result, organizations are increasingly providing a designated space for heads-down, independent, focused work, either at home, at the office, at a designated coworking space, or some combination thereof. In fact, many organizations have done away with assigned desks altogether, allowing employees to choose the workspace that is best suited for the kind of work they want to accomplish on a given day.

Rather than trying to accommodate all working styles and needs under a single roof, organizations can now optimize workspaces for specific kinds of work, providing the resources, environment, and volume level that best suits the task at hand.

2. Making an optional office a desirable choice

Countless studies point to the fact that most Canadian workers expect to have more control over where they work each day. In fact, one study from Cisco Canada and Angus Reid¹ recently found that 81% of employees consider flexible work policies in their decision to accept or remain in a given role. While there are those who prefer one setting over the other, the vast majority simply want some say.

As a result, employers looking to attract and retain top talent— need to provide both a desirable workspace and the freedom not to use it. In other words, employers need to provide a workspace that is worth the commute, while accepting that it won’t be used by every employee every day.

Often that means providing amenities that entice workers into the office, spaces that are appropriate for the kinds of work they are most likely to engage in at the office, and social and professional opportunities that could only be realized in person.

3. Using workplaces to enable cultural change

Organizations that want to best utilize their real estate portfolio in the era of remote and hybrid work should consider the various ways in which those spaces may be utilized by a new kind of workforce, and how that space can help cement their workplace culture.

At Cresa, we are seeing a clear connection between business culture and hybrid work solutions. As individual staff members and their managers exercise their newfound autonomy, businesses may need to shift their cultures to respond. This is not always an easy undertaking.

Working with our clients we have found that there is a real need for greater clarity around the alignment of company culture and hybrid solutions. When companies really consider how to operate in a way that maximizes their success and how their office can enable that vision, it often inspires fundamental change to their short and long-term plans.

Workplaces remain a vital touchpoint for employees, and the primary avenue for reinforcing company culture, as well as executing practical business and operational objectives. As such, each workplace will be as unique as the company itself.

For example, a finance client of ours initially developed a strategy for their hybrid solution that needed some course correction. Their revised program required staff to come to the office three days per week: two days in coordination with their team members and an additional day of their choosing.

This allocation, however, meant that in-office days had a greater concentration of meetings and team activities, interspersed with focused work. This new approach to in-person work required a workplace to match. Ultimately this client was able to downsize their total space while allocating more towards areas designated for collaboration, along with shared desk neighbourhoods and offices for senior management.

A Change Management and User Experience program further eased the transition and continues to support its success. A post-move staff survey revealed a high degree of satisfaction levels amongst leaders, managers, and staff, all of whom confirmed that the solution satisfied their key needs and preferences in an equitable way.

Offices served a very specific function for a very long time, but in this era of remote and hybrid work, organizations have been given license to completely rethink their purpose. For organizations and their employees to succeed in the hybrid work era, both must come together to determine how and where employees will do their best work while continuing to grow professionally.

¹ - Cisco. 2023, February 16. No longer just a “perk”: Cisco Survey finds Canadians now expect flexible, hybrid work. GlobeNewswire News Room.

November 29, 2023

Stacey Litwin-Davies

Principal, Consulting

As a Principal, Stacey is responsible for consulting services. This includes research, strategy, advocacy, and advisory for clients in the areas of the future of work, change management, remote and home working, transformation, and related services.


© 2023 Cresa Toronto Inc., Brokerage

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