Thought Piece

What's next for the workplace?

This year, we’re hosting a series of roundtable events to continue our discussion on the ever-changing landscape of the workplace.

For our first roundtable, we partnered with Flexibility Works to bring together people from a diverse background such as legal services, the charitable sector and housing associations. It was a lively and informative talk about understanding what the future holds for the workplace. Here’s a summary of the day’s insights:

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  • Roundtable Summary 10 March 2022
  • Author Chris Carr

Recent Findings

84% of employees in Scotland have or want flexible working, while the average number of days people see themselves working from home in the future is 2.8 days. The latter figure is certainly one that will resonate with anyone who has carried out or read any of the workplace surveys over the past two years. Communications and leadership, culture, and physical space will have to change to support that.

The past two years have definitely impacted our thinking, with a whole range of experiences being taken on board. Some organisations are unsure what they want, but some are being quite ambitious.

Pre-Covid, an 8:10 desk-sharing ratio was seen as a challenge for very traditional workplaces and organisations; now some are seeing 4:10 as within the realms of possibility for the future workplace.

The collaboration-focus dilemma continues to be changing, as does the increasing integration of technology to support hybrid meetings. People like the controllable quiet they get while working from home and workplaces are introducing more quiet places to support focused work or to take Teams calls in private.


Flexible working, agile working, hybrid working? Often, we get caught up in discussions regarding terminology and using phrases that we think are correct. Language evolves; two years ago, we were debating whether ‘blend’ or ‘hybrid’ was the most appropriate wording. ‘Hybrid working’ is definitely the common theme now.

The home working environment is a major factor in productivity. Should employers help their employees create a home office where they can be productive and inspired? Some do, but it takes an investment to make it work. There also needs to be strong communication between leadership and staff. We know not all jobs can be done from home but transparency is essential when assessing roles and suitability for hybrid working.

If staff want to work from home and the organisation has a different view, staff must be empowered to come up with solutions that won’t impact their productivity. Previously, the more flexible workers were those who left the office, visited sites, were the creative thinkers, while admin functions were more static and office based. This has now flipped, with remote access to data allowing formerly static staff to work from home with those who need to bounce ideas off their colleagues looking to the office to support such collaboration.

‘Who needs to be in the office and when?’ is an important question to be asking right now.


Measurable outputs and cumulative trends help some organisations track productivity. But for others, output is really all that matters, with how results are achieved being less of a concern. (‘Trust’ was a common theme throughout the event.)

Engagement (or lack of) is an issue for some people who really struggle with working from home. This places the onus on organisations to check in on their staff and monitor mental health as this will have a negative impact on productivity. Not everyone works the same way, so diversity of thought and flexibility is important when measuring productivity.

Communication & Training

With staff returning to the workplace, there needs to be ‘inductions’ with improved messaging that entices them back. Trauma is a fair way to describe how some staff have responded to the last two years and returning an office will be a challenge for some.

What about those who have only known work from home in their new roles? Integrating new starts into teams hasn’t been easy and there’s been a shift in managerial roles, with more pastoral work being required. It’s vital to listen to staff and understand the range of preferences.

Staff need support and training in order to cope with change and the message and tone has to be correct in order to achieve changes in behaviour. Alongside an investment in space there has to be an investment in people.


It’s all about boundaries when discussing this new world of work. Targets need to be set with flexibility in how they’ll be achieved. Young employees are vital for bringing in new ideas – they are the progenitors of change – but they often need help working within parameters. All staff will need training in how to use spaces when the workplace changes. Strategy is relatively easy, change management is a much longer and more complicated process.

People & Workplace

In designing workplaces, flexibility is key – test and learn; organisations shouldn’t be afraid of getting it wrong. Pre-Covid wasn’t perfect (far from it) and organisations should now seize the opportunity to try and get it right.