Hybrid work arrangements are here to stay, but don’t forget that we had offices for a reason, said Tom Barkin, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Virginia.
Barkin made the comments in a speech this week.
The key takeaway: Companies need to reinvent the office for hybrid work. It will look different. Companies must focus on making the most of the time workers still have in offices to maintain connectivity — to keep the benefits brought by being on site in-person.
While remote work has positive aspects — employees value flexibility, it pulls more people into the workforce, it improves hiring pools — there are tradeoffs.
“Offices evolved into the dominant model for good reasons, and companies are rightfully hesitant to lose those benefits,” Barkin said.
Efficiency and productivity rank among those benefits; however, offices provide much more, he said.
Companies need to be more “intentional” when it comes to connectivity among workers.
“Enabling more connectivity may require rethinking spending,” Barkin said. “Some companies are reconsidering their physical footprint and lowering real estate costs as a consequence. They should be thinking about redeploying some of those savings into connectivity spend, including meals and social events in the office and occasions to bring people together outside the workplace.”
If we are honest with ourselves, we aren’t optimizing the hybrid environment today, he said.
“To make it meet its full potential, we need to leverage the power of technology while innovating to recreate the benefits which the office once provided.”
Take Google for instance. The company is opening its newest campus in Mountain View, California, and executives say they aim to make it a place where employees in the company’s advertising division feel more comfortable returning to the office for decades to come.
It’s also the company’s first ground-up developed campus. Google’s other campuses are pre-existing buildings that had been modified by the company, a spokesperson told CNBC.
“As we started with a blank canvas, we had to ask ourselves another set of questions, and that was simply ‘what will work look like in 20 years, 30 years, 50 years, 100 years?’” said Google’s VP of Workplace and Real Estate David Radcliffe. “And I’ll be honest, the conclusion we came to was ‘we have no idea.’ But what we did know was it meant we had to be extra, extra focused on flexibility. This building had to be able to transform itself over its lifetime in order to respond to the demands being put on by the business.”