What's the point of the office in the hybrid working era (1200 × 627px)

Lots of things happen every single day that become an anecdote and nothing more.

But some things can’t be overlooked or forgotten. Certain events, moments, conversations or accidents can change how things work forever.

You can look at a myriad of examples throughout history that have drawn a line in the historical record. For example, there’s the time before cars and the time after cars. That change fundamentally transformed transportation forever and was a catalyst for the broader societal changes that followed across the globe.

The truth is that you can do the same for lots of modern events. Before and after the internet. Before and after email. Before and after smartphones. All of which are shifted by technological advancements.

But perhaps the most impactful line in modern history’s events record is the COVID-19 pandemic.

Out of office

Before this accident of history, work was predominantly about physical workplaces and this place called the office – a product of the 1800s. The office was a staple of society.

Lucy Kellway, in How the Office was Invented, likens the contemporary office to other human endeavours: “The Egyptians had their pyramids, the Romans had aqueducts, Victorians [had] their railways. What we’ve got are gigantic glass and steel boxes of desks, whiteboards and water coolers.”

However, when the pandemic forced people to leave these glass and steel boxes, economies didn’t fail. Businesses didn’t shut down. Employees still got their work done.

Within a matter of days, a line was drawn in history, and work became something you did – not somewhere you went.

Of course this isn’t true across every industry or job role, but it’s now clear that much of today’s work doesn’t need a single physical office to succeed.

Rise of remote work and the digital hq

Restaurants are back. Bars are back. Travelling is back. Hotels, airplanes, sports stadiums, theatres are back and even cinemas recovered on a ticket sale basis better than offices.

Why? The benefits of remote work are now deeply ingrained in employees and the vast majority want flexibility of both where (78%) and when they work (95%), according to the Slack think tank, FutureForum.

Today’s digital workplace tools including Slack, Google Workspace, Microsoft Outlook, Asana, Workday, Zoom, Okta (the list goes on), provide an accessible and inclusive digital hq. 

Hybrid Working Stats - Future Forum flexible working

Even when employees do head to the physical office, they often find themselves still using these digital workplace tools to connect with colleagues and communicate with those working remotely.

Last week, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield opened Slack Frontiers saying: “It turns out that our “digital HQs” — the digital infrastructure that supports productivity, collaboration and even culture no matter where employees are located — might be even more important than our physical HQs.”

So what’s the point of the office?

There are multiple reasons why companies still see the need for an office.

Identity, substance, human connection, productivity, and collaboration are just some of the key reasons why the office remains an important part of many workplaces.

The overall need for a physical meeting point will continue to be a thing. But the office that we’ve come to know; the open, grey box with tables and chairs, will no longer serve the purpose of modern hybrid work.

For companies to thrive in this modern hybrid era, clarity matters.

Making decisions about the physical workplace, workplace technologies, closing deals, driving productivity, ensuring connection and inclusion, and getting products to market all require a clear vision on what’s working, what isn’t and continuous data-driven insights.

Yet too often, companies are slowed down by tradition. Data is siloed. Information is guarded. Insights are surface-level. And business as usual prevails.

The opportunity ahead

When we look back through history, there are moments that drive real change. COVID-19 will certainly be one of them. And it’s arguably been felt most profoundly in the world of work.

We’re now living in a post-shift world, which provides a unique opportunity to rethink work, and where and how it happens. This is the time to challenge business as usual and create a hybrid future that can work for everyone, everywhere.


But first, you need clarity on where you are right now. That’s where Temporall comes in.

At Temporall, we are leaders in workplace analytics.

Our platform harnesses your workplace metadata to provide unrivalled insights on the inner-workings of your hybrid workplace. We help leaders answer the most pressing questions about modern hybrid work–so you can get serious about your future.

Win, grow and defend your hybrid workplace with Temporall’s workplace analytics.

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