Collaboration and socialising have become key uses of the office. Image -Canva
  • "Managed Flexibility" may be the office model of the future
  • Offices are still deemed essential for collaboration and socialising
  • This is based on a recent whitepaper by Meta5 and the University of Melbourne

With more people working from home than ever and with a newly realised importance of work flexibility, the way we use offices is changing. So, what does an office of the future look like?

Meta5 and the University of Melbourne have released a whitepaper proposing “managed flexibility” as the solution to a new era of work.

But before we look to the future, let’s reflect on the past.

The office through time. Source – Meta5

Through the decades the nature of work has become more collaborative, according to the Meta5 report the design of offices has reflected this. In more recent times, an increase in freelance style work has been reflected by the prominence of co-working spaces.

39% of employees are now working from home regularly, a significant shift from the pre-pandemic 20% according to the whitepaper. With this change, the office model is bound to change also.

Despite early predictions that the pandemic would be the beginning of the end of offices. The pandemic has shown us that the office still has a valuable role to play.

No home setup can replace the collaboration and socialising benefits of the office space.

The whitepaper explains that while flexibility in the workplace is nothing new, the way it is approached will need to change.

The case-by-case basis by which flexibility was managed will cause a post-pandemic workplace where employees feel they have earned the right to work from home.

“We believe the answer to these questions lies in a model we call managed flexibility: a way of working where workers have more flexibility, while managers simultaneously have more control and oversight.”

Meta5 and University of Melbourne report

In this proposed model, individuals have clearly designated times that they are in the office – allowing for planned collaboration while also catering for remote working.

This is an improvement from the old flexible model where it may not be clear who would be in on a given day.

Managed flexibility may be the answer. Source – Meta5

For this transition to managed flexibility to work effectively, it is essential for leadership teams to have a clear understanding of why the change is needed.

Performance and productivity measurement will be key to a flexible workplace.

The model means improved efficiency in the use of space. The whitepaper suggests that the office footprint could be reduced by up to a third of its original space.

The office design will need to reflect the socialising and collaboration uses of the space. This might mean more bookable formal collaboration spaces or informal breakout spaces.

“… two key lessons from the pandemic: staff don’t have to be in the office all the time, and the office is most useful for the collaboration and social opportunities is provides. Managed flexibility offers a way for these two truths to exist in harmony, as it will help ensure that the right people are together at the right times”

This whitepaper was researched and constructed by Christian Pistauer, Director at Meta5 Group in collaboration with research professor Christhina Candido from the University of Melbourne.

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