4 Things Employees Want Out of Modern Workspaces Now

It’s 2021, and work is shifting away from social-amenity-rich, centralized physical offices — and fast. Here’s what employees are looking for in workspaces now.

What defines an ideal modern workspace? In the past, companies put a lot of stock in the physical office. The tech and start-up boom introduced the now-ubiquitous open-plan office, designed to increase employees’ sense of community, allow for more flexibility, and inject fun into the workplace (foosball and beanbags in the break room, anyone?). Just a few years ago, these space-related amenities were the heart of what  many companies considered “company culture.”  

Today, work is shifting away from social-amenity-rich, centralized physical offices — and fast. But that doesn’t mean company culture hasn’t grown any less important: In fact, a summer 2020 survey by TopResume indicates that company culture is more important to workers than ever. Its meaning is simply evolving.

Today, a workspace strategy that can keep your company competitive in this new era of work doesn’t stop with office design. It bridges culture, safety, remote work policies, traditional amenities and work-life balance — all central to the modern office. Here are four trends we’re seeing companies leverage to attract and retain talent as the world of work evolves.

1. Let There Be Light

Who knew that something as simple as the amount of natural light in your office space could have such a big impact?. A recent study found that 70% of employees associate having natural light with improved performance at work, and 78% report improvement in their overall wellbeing. 

On the flip side, 47% employees said they feel fatigued and 43% feel gloomy without it.

Keep those window blinds open, and, again, encourage your employees to get outside. If your office is especially dark, it may be time to relocate — or to ditch the office entirely.

2. Embrace Remote Work

It might seem odd that one of the biggest of modern workplace trends has nothing to do with the traditional office itself. But considering that 48% of the U.S. workforce is currently working from home, and 22% are expected to continue working remotely through 2025, the “modern workplace” itself no longer exists within the same four walls.

For the real estate business owner, as for all business owners, facilitating remote work is crucial, and that means investing in things that allow your employees to get work done from anywhere, such as videoconferencing software and your employees’ home internet

It also means promoting agile practices like virtual whiteboards and other collaboration-driven tools that meet your employees where they’re at, even if it’s nowhere near your actual office.

3. Give Employees a Say in What Their Workday Looks Like

Right on the heels of providing remote work opportunities is offering more flexibility about how employees work: not just the ability to work outside the office on set days during set hours, but a seat at the table when it comes to deciding when and where work happens. It may be a big adjustment for traditional companies — but newcomers are finding it pays off.

Flexibility in an employee’s working life is associated with a 13% gain in productivity, as well as increased overall satisfaction, and studies show boosting employee happiness means boosting productivity and retention. These improvements have positive implications for success on the business side as well: according to Gallup, a workplace environment that allows for focus and productivity is correlated with a 21% increase in profitability. All the more reason to empower your team to work where and when they can get the best work done. 

A lot of major companies have already made the switch to offering employees more flexible work environments, including American Express, Dell, and Zapier. This includes perks like “work from anywhere” policies and the ability for employees to ditch the 9-to-5 and work whenever they want, so long as the work gets done. And at Automattic (the company behind WordPress), they even closed their 15,000 square foot San Francisco office, instead letting employees work from home or offering $250 per month stipends to employees who want to work from commercial coworking space. 

At Upflex, our clients find it easier to keep costs down by replacing under-utilized traditional office leases with on-demand flex space — a particularly important achievement in an industry driven by maximizing real estate investments. Like Automattic, they’ve discovered that it’s a whole lot more cost-effective to invest in the ways that employees actually want to work, instead of paying a pricey lease on offices that no one wants to be at. 

4. Emphasize Work-life Balance

Millennials and Gen-Z are making up more and more of the workforce, and they’re overwhelmingly prioritizing work-life balance when determining whether or not to take a job. So if you want to score (and keep) top talent, you’ll need to prioritize it too.

By its very nature, work-life balance is something that’s shaped both within and outside of the office. Things like actually encouraging your employees to utilize their PTO can go a long way, as can incorporating outside space into your inner work environment. Ditto for the remote and flexible solutions mentioned above.

Ultimately, it comes down to trusting your employees, basing your own interpretation of office success over what gets accomplished and not how many hours your workers spend at their desk every day.

The Big Takeaway

If we learned anything from 2020, it’s that you should always expect the unexpected. Adopt flexibility in your workspace now and you’ll be better prepared for the future — whatever that looks like. Read more about how Upflex is helping companies save while implementing flexspace strategies with hub headquarters in major markets, on-demand access to conveniently located spokes around the world, and desk passes for one-off remote work — all in the same app.