Market Insight

Return to the workplace: The move from productivity paranoia to purposeful, personalised space

February 28, 2023
The debate around hybrid working continues to evolve in the wake of the pandemic. Although various studies have been published, conflicts are emerging in the data.

Leesman reports that it may take another two or three years before we fully understand the true impact on employees, organisations, and societies.

A key concept that has emerged in the hybrid working debate, however, has been that of purposeful presence. This is about creating a reason for staff to attend the office, ensuring that they can expect a better experience than working from home.

This includes offering a better workspace that supports specific tasks, interaction with colleagues, learning experiences, or even just to offer an escape from loneliness.

This message is reinforced to some extent by Microsoft, who according to a recent report, call for an end to the productivity paranoia.

Whilst individual productivity did increase, we also know that burnout has too – particularly for women.

Executives are feeling the strain of leading a distributed workforce, and the life / work balance (or lack thereof) is creating undue strain on people trying to juggle the school run, prepare meals, homework, and work from home.

Perhaps there is much we can learn from caricature of Julia and Paul in Motherland, in order to create a cohesive hybrid working policy which explains the benefits of being together whilst offering a practical solution in the form of a better standard of workplace, with more flexibility in how people work.

As part of this, the personalisation of the workplace is essential, to create a better experience in the office than an employee has at home.


LinkedIn’s creation of concentration space, space for rebuilding social capital, building relationships, or socialisation is a good example of this.

Offering a choice of spaces for teams to use for different purposes is vital – focus space, collaboration areas, learning zones, space to socialise, room to rest – they’re all crucial.

Interestingly, the new BCO space standards now reflect this too, having gone from a gradual reduction in the amount of recommended space per person in an office, to an increased 10 to 12 square meters per person, to promote productivity and well-being, allowing for a greater mix of desk space and increased demand for collaboration space, amenity, and breakout space.

Of course, the debate around “I’m more productive at home” versus “we are more productive as a business” continues to rumble on, but what hasn’t change is the impact of face-to-face interactions.

A new MIT study has quantified the impact of face-to-face interactions on innovation, showing that serendipitous interaction led to innovation breakthroughs.

We know that missing these interactions impacts knowledge flow and innovation, which is why creating a purposeful, productive and personalised office is so important, to help you re-recruit your workforces back into the workplace.

So, how best can you achieve this? Based on working with many occupiers as they embrace a move back into the office – to one extent or another – here are our top tips to ensure successful workplace strategies.

Communicate purpose

Explain the reasons why employees should attend the office, such as the connection with the brand, building relationships, innovation, learning opportunities, and succession planning.

Lead by example

Senior managers need to lead by example and live and breathe the policy being implemented.

Be flexible in design

The office environment design needs to be continuously reviewed to enhance the staff experience, including more desks, more concentration space, or better breakout areas.

Make your policy fit for purpose

Attendance two to three days a week is the sweet spot.

Culture is key

Developing a culture that celebrates examples of connection in the office is key. This includes innovation, information sharing, learning opportunities, connection, and having fun together.

Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, and many organisations are at different stages of their return to the workplace journey. However, as more evidence emerges, it is clear that being together for some of the time, is better than not at all.

For help and support with your future workplace strategy, and to secure the right premises to meet your needs, get in touch.