Why the Flexible Office is the “New Black”

No doubt about it, the workplace has been through the wringer over the past 24 months or so. The pandemic has forced many employees to work remotely using a hybrid model of sorts, causing a massive shift in how we think about – and what we need from – the workplace.

Many organizations have set their sights on specific dates set to open the workplace back up only to have their plans derailed by the latest wave or varianƒt. Although research from Owl Labs reveals that 73% of full-time employees in the US returned to the office one or more days per week in 2021, many businesses have had to push their return-to-work dates back or shift their plans in response to changing conditions. Case in point: DocuSign set January 10, 2022, as the date that it would bring 7,000 global employees back to the workplace, only to later postpone yet again as the pandemic continues evolving. Gartner’s August 2021 survey suggested that roughly 66% of organizations have had to delay their return-to-office plans, with some suggesting that they may not get everyone back to the office until 2023.

Unpredictable attendance in the office is causing many workplace strategists to reevaluate historic norms about how space will be used in the future.  Many are reshaping their footprint entirely and including flex space in their strategies to better meet the diverse needs of their employees. In any case, the workplace is undergoing lasting change. As more organizations realize that one size no longer fits all and that the traditional office must be transformed to remain agile and responsive in the face of our evolving world, the need to include flexibility in some portion of your office plans has only become more apparent.

How can business leaders design a purpose-driven workplace without wasting time and resources on space that’s underutilized? We offer our CORT Permanently Flexible® Solutions that can be used singularly or together to create a workplace that delivers exactly what an organization needs.

Remain Permanently Flexible: CORT Furniture-as-a-Service (FaaS)

There’s undeniable value in being together. There’s simply no substitution for face-to-face connectivity. In-person interaction is an effective way to support collaboration, innovation, and the creation of robust company culture. No matter if an organization remains mostly remote or adopts a hybrid policy, there will always be a need for a physical workplace of some sort to bring people together in an immersive experience that digital interactions can’t quite duplicate. Face-to-face experiences during which people are physically sharing the same space have the power to create and sustain focus, encourage experimentation, and facilitate interpersonal bonding that you just can’t get with screen time.

Experts predict that the workplace will become increasingly flexible, with options allowing employees to choose when and where they work and what office configurations work best for the work that needs to be completed that day. Google recently told the Washington Post, “While the future of work will become increasingly flexible, the ability to collaborate and build community in person will remain an important part of Google.”

Diving deeper into this sentiment, Allison Ballard, Vice President & Executive Director for 4SITE by CORT, shared her thoughts on what the purpose of the office will need to be in the future. “When evaluating the workplace of the future, flexibility may be the most important benefit of the next decade. There must be an incentive for why people should go to an office space to work, share knowledge, gain exposure to thought leaders, and increase career development opportunities. There’s value in being together. We know remote work works, but there are no digital substitutions for in-person whiteboarding sessions. The workplace will become increasingly agile.

Allowing for flexibility to respond to this type of agility will be key to keeping the office relevant and employees aligned with corporate identity. Experimenting with space and measuring configurations for use is the only way to know what is performing for unique workforces.

To accomplish that, no matter if you’re a huge tech company or a small startup, remaining agile and nimble in the face of disruption and evolving business needs is critical. It’s also a crucial way to keep the office relevant well into the future.

This is another way that CORT can help support organizations during these tumultuous times and beyond. CORT Furniture-as-a-Service (FaaS) is a vital tool in your flexibility toolkit. Our innovative furniture rental model changes how furniture is utilized in the workplace and buildings through access instead of an ownership approach that allows you to use what you need when you need it. Scale up or down as necessary and swap or return items when you no longer want or need them to enhance your workplace’s functionality quickly and seamlessly, while supporting your ongoing business goals, objectives, and agendas.

The key to moving forward is to continue looking towards solution-based opportunities. FaaS allows businesses to pivot quickly and adapt to rapid changes. Additionally, we work closely with facility managers to deploy flexible office solutions. CORT and 4SITE recently teamed up to gain valuable insight into the current trends, which indicate that the majority of companies are approaching the return to work as a hybrid strategy, with space and furniture requirements dominating their preparations.

Staying Ahead of What’s Next: 4SITE Sensor Technology and Data

In the months and years to come, most companies will be experimenting with their space, measuring new configurations and iterations to remain flexible. For many, flexibility is more than just a buzzword, it may be one of the key workplace benefits of the future. But the question remains: How can you effectively and efficiently create the flexibility you need in the space you have?

Data-driven decisions have real power. And that’s where 4SITE Sensor Technology comes into play. Some of our clients have spent sleepless nights worrying if they’re using their space to its fullest or if the space is designed to support productivity and enhance the workplace experience.

With the workplace utilization sensor technology and data 4SITE offers, businesses are not only answering those questions, but they’re also better armed with the data they need to create the flexibility that’s so vital to the future of the workplace.

The 4SITE occupancy study platform is as nimble as your flexible office, allowing for reconfigurations and redeployment that can be self-managed. The sensors collect motion event data and send it via cellular signature to a cloud hub using an onsite gateway. Our clients are given a private web dashboard where they access their data and can use it to create a variety of reports for multiple use cases, including:

  • Conducting occupancy studies
  • Calculating the office occupancy rates
  • Analyzing utilization based on dwell time

What Does the Future Hold?

As leaders begin to look ahead to what may come next for the workplace, the fact remains that there is no definitive answer for what the future will hold for the workplace. While it may be frustrating that not much has changed over the last 22 months around how to correctly bring employees back to the office, there is a bit of hope. Because there is no “right” way to go about things, we’re in a time where it’s encouraged to experiment, measure, modify, and repeat with the office.  This is why CORT is proud to support our clients as we all continue to navigate and adjust to this uncertainty with these three powerful workplace solutions. When put together, we’re able to support and deliver a bit more certainty through our physical furnishings and two innovative software products.

Ready to keep a portion of your space permanently flexible? Discover how CORT’s custom solutions can help you best meet your goals.

Ending productivity paranoia in the workplace