By Shona Adam, Associate Director of Workplace Change at the Scottish Futures Trust.

It’s just over three years since the world of office-based work changed forever. When we were sent home with our laptops on that dark day in March 2020, few of us would have believed such a transformation would be possible in such a short time.

When we published our 2021 New Frontiers for Smarter Working report, it found that the pandemic had fast-tracked a social revolution. A new world of choice had opened up around how and where office-based work could be delivered.

Our update to that report, published this week, outlines some useful approaches towards understanding our office-based work and workplace future. The pandemic gave us a rare opportunity to do things differently, and it feels like real systemic change is now within our grasp.

Most public sector organisations are still testing and exploring how their new ‘future focussed’ model might look. In addition to the pandemic, there has been so much change with regard to living costs and energy prices that could have impacted people’s choices and many organisations have been waiting to see how this played out. But one thing that is for sure is the hybrid working genie is well and truly out of the bottle!

We are moving towards a future where hybrid working of some type is the norm and where our approach to the way we work needs to meet all of our needs in the best way possible. It’s all there, we just need to grasp the opportunity!

A complex picture with a diverse mix of experiences

The latest Scottish Business Insights and Conditions Survey found that of those organisations which have adopted increased home working, 84.6% cited staff wellbeing as a main driver. And there’s little doubt that the availability of home and remote working does improve morale – as well as productivity – for the majority of office-based workers.

There is, however, no one-size-fits-all solution as there are a wide variety of experiences in play.

Some people may feel they are missing out on the whole workplace experience, while others may enjoy the flexibility that remote working gives them. If you are starting out on your career, you may be looking for on-site mentoring and more of a workplace experience. Others may suffer from isolation and loneliness and the office supports their wellbeing. It may not be possible to deliver your role from home but there might be options to build other flexibility into your role.

This next phase is about working through the many issues and creating a model of choice that supports as many of your people as possible.

The office of the future – creating better quality workspace

The opportunities offered by hybrid working are immense. It allows organisations to explore how and where their people work but also to consider how their buildings support the services they deliver. If public sector organisations can look to a future where they could share a better quality space with another organisation, this could reduce their costs and carbon footprint significantly.

This new workspace could offer access to an improved mix of work settings to better support hybrid work practices and help deliver that all-important positive user experience and sense of belonging.

The ‘office of the future’ could include a mix of spaces that support hybrid gatherings, work areas that encourage collaboration, social spaces that support connection and quiet areas where people can do focused work. You could create a truly amazing experience for your people, built around flexibility and choice.

As we embrace these opportunities, choice sits firmly at the heart of our office based work experience. The more we focus on choice, flexibility and belonging, the brighter our future and the closer we get to achieving our dream.