How HR can boost collaboration with flexible work

How HR can boost collaboration with flexible work


In the 1940s, a car was merely a vehicle to get from A to B. When electronics came along, they entirely changed the way we experience car travel. Cars doubled up as a stereo, a cooling system, and even a place to pull over and rest during long journeys.

The evolution of the office has been similarly drastic. Even going back 20 years, most offices were jammed with isolated cubicles, stuffy meeting rooms, and stacks of paper. It’s difficult for many to imagine sitting in that environment all day, for five days a week.

People’s expectations of working have changed, especially since the pandemic. While in the early 10s, ‘exciting’ offices seemed limited to Big Tech companies in Silicon Valley, today employees need a reason to come into the physical workplace.

Recent research shows us that many organisations are failing to incentivise their workers, with 60% of HR leaders reporting that employees see no compelling reason to come into the physical workplace. The biggest challenge that HR teams face is working out how to keep employees engaged while supporting a more flexible working structure. True flexibility means reframing how we think about work in the modern world and shifting towards a model that moulds around people’s personal lives.

So, what are the current office requirements and how do you facilitate a more collaborative and enjoyable experience at work?

Why people come to the office

Humans are naturally social beings, and learn best from others - as supported by our recent poll that found 72% of workers enjoy learning from others who are physically around them. Many of us are also keen to break the ‘Eat. Sleep. Work. Repeat’ cycle that we fell into during the pandemic, constrained within the same four walls. Ultimately, continued isolation from colleagues is an obstacle to our wellbeing – as well as effective and creative working.

Organisations need to provide experiences that you can’t access with fully remote work. The office should act as a social hub, where people come together to share ideas and be creative. It’s an important expression of a company culture and provides a sense of belonging – invaluable when the battle for talent is rife.

These benefits are only possible when businesses create tech-enabled spaces that allow people to benefit from these environments, whether in person or virtually.

Reimagining spaces

A great office is all about agility; it should adapt to the demands of its occupants and allow flexibility on a day-to-day basis. That starts before you even enter. Simple things like ensuring people can easily (on a mobile or web app) book or cancel a desk last minute, show who is in the office, register car parking on an app, or find their way around the building, are all vital to removing unnecessary obstacles that deter employees.

Office layout doesn’t traditionally come under the HR team’s remit, but it’s tightly linked to how it impacts the way people come together – to eat, meet, and socialise. Working with Facility teams, HR can influence how social spaces boost employee culture through increased interactions and team building. Indeed, increased collaboration has a proven impact on both employee retention and organisational success. More trust between colleagues helps nurture better customer relationships, too.

Meeting room spaces should be adaptable for any occasion and technology – from in-person meetings with customers, to after-work socials and international calls. The digital function of the office space is non-negotiable. Employees should be able to capture ideas and share thoughts with colleagues in any location, with tools that are consistent and easy to use.

Understanding new needs

Without insights into how employees are using the workplace, plans to enhance future work policies - such as asynchronous work - will fall short. Integrated technology platforms like RICOH Spaces analyse the utilisation of office space, helping to better understand employee behaviour and provide knowledge of how to work together in the office.

Only by learning employee trends and preferences – for instance, the quietest day in the office or unpopular desk pods – can teams consider relevant incentives and remedies. This granular level of insight informs flexible working policies and helps businesses make data-led decisions.

Ultimately, tools like RICOH Spaces facilitate collaboration by ensuring there are sufficient spaces to collaborate. It ensures an even distribution of people across meeting rooms, so any one space isn’t overfilled or underutilised.

Creating a space and culture to last

Letting the workplace stagnate is a sure-fire way loose talent. Remember that the better spaces work for employees, the better the output for individuals and the organisation.

Flexible work can only succeed if businesses invest in digitally-enabled spaces that adapt to employee needs and drive fulfilment.

To stay ahead of the curve and boost engagement, HR should work with IT and facilities to refigure spaces with collaboration and experience at the heart. To find out more about reimagining a seamless workplace, read Ricoh’s latest report here.

Nathan Thomas


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