When you hear the word ‘office’, what comes to mind? A rigidly-packed space filled with cubicle upon cubicle? An open-plan layout with limited privacy but ticking the box for a versatility in space? Or, maybe, a space in your very own home where you have attempted to carve out a haven of work zen? As different as these ‘offices’ may look, they facilitate our work and impact the ways in which our organisations function in surprisingly similar fashions.
Let’s think for a moment: Has the change in ‘where’ we have been working really changed ‘how’ we work? Has the shift to remote work made us more flexible, more collaborative, more creative – or are we bringing our behaviours from the office home, becoming increasingly task focused and productivity driven?
Before you dismiss the office entirely and settle into 100% remote work, or head straight back to the office once restrictions are lifted, we invite you to ponder a little deeper over our work environments, pre and post pandemic. How we work best and our current office setup – are they aligned?
The Pre-Pandemic Office: Right On Schedule For Change
Most of us will recall sitting at our perfectly-aligned desks in our elementary years at school, shuffling from room to room before being herded toward a noise-filled canteen for our meal breaks. College years wove in some flexibility with varied schedules and choices around campus to park ourselves alone or with friends, often at the library or a cosy coffee joint.
Fast forward to present day work-life before the pandemic. We have moved from the classroom to the office, at a specified time and place in our carefully curated work attire, slowly counting the hours till the day’s end, carefully looking over our shoulders to see if someone is keeping an eye on us.
Over the last half century, our ways of working haven’t really changed. A fixed place, a fixed time, and fixed tasks to be carried out in an ‘office’ designed to facilitate productivity, to facilitate ‘work’. Interestingly, even with the adoption of an ‘open plan’ design that arguably helps to improve collaboration, creativity, and engagement – the challenges still remain, and are oftentimes exacerbated.
No matter how much the office has ‘evolved’ from cubicles to cushy lounges, we are still falling into the same traps. Does that automatically mean that ‘remote-work’ is the better option?
The Remote Work Experiment – Did it Work?
It’s no secret, people hate the office – perhaps that is why at the start of the pandemic, we were all so excited to ditch the commute and work in our PJs from the comfort of our couches. “Freedom finally!” we thought to ourselves. But with the passing months, this cloud of freedom drifted away and was replaced by the same feelings of burnout, boredom, and business that we experienced at the office.
Instead of ‘pretending to be busy’ when our manager walks by, we stay online throughout the day so people know we are ‘working’. The work-life balance ideal has also been blurred with the laptop permanently parked at the dining table. Hands up too, if you seem to be in significantly more virtual meetings, taking more ad-hoc calls and managing more incoming chats than before the pandemic.
More than ever, we find ourselves increasingly task-based, less spontaneous and more socially isolated than ever before – hardly the ideal creative solution.
What’s next in a post-vaccine world? Most organisations and individuals believe they should alternate between the two: the office and remote work. But we must take our learnt lessons through the tough times and strive to find the right balance. What if we could create a third option, a new ‘Hybrid’ that is radically better than choosing between two locations?
The Hybrid Office: Building a Better Future of Work
The Hybrid Office is Liberation. A conscientious fusion that has emerged from this global disruption. The office that improves work-lives deeply impacted from the past year, design that understands how humans prefer to work and empowers them to do their best work. It is not simply renovating to improve the aesthetic appearance of an existing office space; more than that, it marks an intentional shift to a modular office – one that is agile and inspires innovation.
Come 9 April 2021, “The Office, Disrupted” by Paperspace Asia invites you to experience the office as a time capsule that has evolved alongside industrialisation, modern life and more recently, disruption. Through immersing yourselves in a threefold offering – the exhibition, weekly panel sessions and the launch of the HybridWork Lab, take the chance to appreciate how the hybrid office can merge the two worlds of working from home and working from the office to bring about tangible work-life agreement and fulfillment.