Setting up an office that is worth the travel time


According to many findings that place-bound workers have been working from home for more than two years, reintroduction to an office environment meets with varying degrees of acceptance, from enthusiasm to hesitation.

How do you make an office space worth commuting to? Our telco company has been a hybrid (60% in-person, 40% remote) from the start, and we’ve seen what works, what doesn’t, and where leaders should allocate funds. And it goes without saying that healthy boundaries are paramount as everyone’s well-being is different and as people’s work-life balance priorities have shifted.

With that in mind, I’ve outlined a few areas I would focus on to make an office not only acceptable for commuting, but also a place where people find value and are passionate about.

Make your tools work seamlessly

We’ve all remodeled our homes over the past two years to accommodate remote work. Closets became offices, garages became gyms – the creativity that has gone into multipurpose setups amazes me.

Teams are now used to their remote work environments and have invested in home environments with all their clever new accommodations. Our office space should emulate this. I myself have two laptops, an iPad and various chargers. Instead of carrying these devices from home to the office, I made the setup the same at each location. This step ensures that I can start working as soon as I sit down at a desk, whether I’m at home or in the office, and helps me arrange daily things in both places every day.

Replicating home office setups is a gesture that shows employees that their remote offices are valuable, and as a manager, you want to make it as comfortable for them as possible.

Show your care even further by giving your employees the ability to customize their workspaces. And ask them what they need to be successful, where they want to position themselves, and how you can make every space theirs. If you implement “hot desking” — where employees don’t have their own desk and use any free space when they’re in the office — make sure each desk is stocked with necessary items like monitors, chargers, and adapters.

This becomes more difficult for large companies, but they can still invest the time to find out what everyone needs, whether through a survey or individual requests.

Lead with transparency

I have no preference for where my team gets their work done as long as it gets done, but leaders who prefer employees to meet in person need to encourage them to return to an office rather than hire them. We’ve all heard of the Great Resignation, and many workers are looking for better opportunities and more ownership of their future. We know employees want flexibility and it would be unfair to have different requirements for different employees based on location alone.

We need transparency about what’s going on in the office so those working remotely can attend or commute that day. Never make remote workers feel left out of anything, whether it’s a team lunch, a everyone’s meeting, or any type of announcement. Learning how to run fair hybrid meetings where distant participants feel as involved as the people in the room is another important consideration. Every meeting room in the office must have the right technology to include remote team members in the conversation.

Notify employees of regularly scheduled activities in advance so employees can plan and participate if they wish. This gives them time to organize childcare or transportation, and also encourages greater employee engagement and targeted culture development.

Whether you’re encouraging people to drop by a few days a week or setting up a shared company calendar, provide information so people can make targeted decisions that are right for them.

Stay flexible

Allowing people to be completely remote should always be an option. When ill, caring for loved ones, or relocating to a new city, employees should feel empowered to stay away from the office. Employees have adjusted and demonstrated their ability to work while physically separated from colleagues; By enacting a company-wide promise that they can work from anywhere, you create mutual respect and trust. I recognize that my people know what is best for them and it is our job to find a clear path for them to be successful in their work environment (whatever that may be) and roles.

In most organizations, 100% of team members will never be in the office 100% of the time again. In fact, many people have found that when they are doing “deep work” individually, they are actually more productive not in an office. A hybrid option allows people to have the best of both worlds.

This is the time to steer clear of strict policies and bold predictions – in today’s job market, employees are in the driver’s seat and we should pay attention and listen.

We are all reimagining what it means to be a hybrid team and it should be an important and thoughtful investment. It could be the difference between talent that stays or a great employee that suddenly walks out the door.

Frank Weishaupt is Managing Director of Owl Labs, a collaborative technology company revolutionizing how organizations of all sizes communicate. Owl Labs is a pioneer in the work-from-anywhere movement through its work in developing the award-winning Meet Owl Pro. Setting up an office that is worth the travel time


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