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Déjà Leonard is a copywriter and freelance journalist based in Calgary.

  • 76 per cent of Canadian companies are partially or fully mandating a return to the office
  • Offices are not currently designed to meet employees’ needs for collaboration
  • Companies can make thoughtful design updates that foster connection and support hybrid work so everyone wins

Data from Cisco Canada’s new Reimagining Workspaces Survey shows that there is a gap between what workers are looking for when they return to the office – collaboration – and what companies are currently offering – mostly solo work spaces.

With 76 per cent of Canadian companies partially or fully mandating a return to the office, this gap will need to be addressed to keep workers happy.

“Most offices still aren’t quite ready to create an environment for people to have the best experience that they can have, so there’s still work to be done on reimagining what those workspaces look like,” says Cisco Canada president Shannon Leininger.

According to the report, 64 per cent of workers say they support their company’s mandate and they are driven to come in because they want the opportunity to collaborate, ideate and connect with colleagues.

Yet, currently office spaces are not set up to meet these demands, with 83 per cent of companies still dedicating more than half of their space to individual workstations.

Most workers want to return, but offices aren’t designed for the work they want to do there

The good news is that some employers are taking action. For companies that have a budget allotted to office redesign, 63 per cent plan to make enhancements to workplace layouts.

Benjamin Urban, chief executive officer of industrial construction company DIRTT Environmental Solutions, says he can’t think of a single DIRTT client who has not redesigned some portion of their office space after the pandemic, as they look to bring people back together.

“Some of the most common requests for redesigns are in service of fluctuating real estate needs and evolving workplace environments,” Mr. Urban says. “Companies are either responding to increases or decreases in employees, or they are transforming their workplace environments to better reflect the current needs of the employee base.”

Mr. Urban says that these types of requests aren’t necessarily new. After all, his company creates products, such as foldable walls, that are meant to be dynamic and moved around as needed. What is new is the speed at which companies have needed to make changes to stay relevant.

He says that the way offices are designed directly affects how the space is used.

“You probably personally have seen space in offices that wasn’t designed well, whether due to acoustics, environment, privacy or other that simply gets no utilization. On the other hand there will be spaces that are consistently occupied where the design matches correctly with the end users,” he says.

Mr. Urban says companies need to have distinctly defined areas in the workplace if they want to foster more connection and socialization.

There should be multiple areas of different sizes, some enclosed and some in open spaces.

Companies can also create larger common amenity areas to encourage the establishment of “central hubs” and have areas that allow for unassigned, open seating plans where workers can bump into people from across the business.

Because hybrid work is happening and employees will still need privacy for calls, he says that having the appropriate technology integration and smaller quiet areas or rooms will also be important.

Mr. Urban says changing your office environment today is different from how it has been approached traditionally. There is no one-size-fits-all approach and employers need to see how workers react to understand which changes are working.

“It’s critical that management give themselves the grace to allow them to embrace changes where the initial design may have missed the mark,” he says.

What I’m reading around the web

  • The websites that host your content, such as Reddit or WordPress, may be selling your work to big artificial intelligence companies so they can train their generative AI technologies. Here’s who may be selling your data and why it’s happening.
  • Coming to the midpoint of your career can bring up a lot of tough emotions, but it can also be an important opportunity for growth and evolution. Here are six questions to ask yourself now so you can make the most of your career experience going forward.

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