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How hybrid offices can help attract and retain talent

Offices remain a powerful tool for businesses to prove their value to employees and potential talent

April 08, 2022

As hybrid offices become more widespread and remote working remains part of peoples’ work habits, the office is becoming an even more powerful tool for employers to attract and retain talent.

“Organisations must now earn their employees’ commute,” says Gavin Martin, a tenant representative at JLL. “This means not only having a functional space, but one that provides an engaging, empowering and fulfilling experience, where employees can do their best work and strengthen connections with their teams and organisation.”

Improving employee experience should be at the centre of hybrid office design. Understanding how employees want to work, including what types of activities they want to be in the office for, should inform what types of spaces, amenities and technology are included in a hybrid office design. For example, if workers are coming in for collaborative activities there needs to be great social spaces but if they use the office for focused work providing quiet individual work areas will be more important. Getting this mix right is essential for retaining and attracting the best talent, says Martin.

The role of technology

In a well-designed hybrid office, technology and design are interdependent to create an equitable experience regardless of where people are working from. Having people working in the office, at home, and from other spaces has led to more video conferencing between teams, which means office design must incorporate enough technology-enabled spaces to support this, says Bryan Froud, JLL Work Dynamics director.

“A failure to do this will see multiple employees video conferencing from their desk, even though several people are in the office. This affects the acoustics in open plan offices and is often ineffective for collaboration where only one or two people can speak at a time,” says Froud.

“We’re seeing occupiers invest in technology that better supports hybrid working and collaboration and we’re also seeing an increased number of phone booths or ‘zoom’ rooms, that are small and acoustically treated, dotted throughout the floor so employees can quickly duck into a private space.”

However, hybrid work is also forcing businesses to consider tech-free zones dedicated to focus tasks. This can include call-free library-style zones which gives space to employees who may not have a suitable work-from-home environment and offer a break from the endless number of online calls happening around them.

“For an office to be attractive, it needs to support an employee to do their best work there instead of at home,” Froud says. “This could be by curating social experiences, great views, high-speed technology or designs that support their wellbeing.”

Culture and workplace policy

Alongside fit-for-purpose office design, companies are offering other incentives to attract and retain talent, such as digital subscriptions to pursue learning and development interests, gym and wellbeing memberships, and social opportunities.

Some organisations are trialling shorter working weeks as well as working from abroad for four weeks a year without it affecting employee leave entitlements. For example, tech company Canva has said its employees can choose to come into the office only twice a season.

The best solutions will deliver returns in greater productivity, a great culture and a palpable team environment, Martin says.

“Employers have cracked it if their staff want to come back to work – rather than being told to come back to work.”