Amidst COVID-19, employers globally have
implemented varying remote and hybrid working arrangements. Despite initial
reservations, working from home has proven highly successful, especially in
terms of flexibility and work-life balance.
However, prolonged remote
working has taken a toll on workers; this is especially felt by those just
starting their career journeys, especially Generation Z and younger Millennials
aged 18 to 25 years (according to Microsoft). While this group tends to be more
adaptable and comfortable with remote working technologies, they also acutely
experience increased loneliness and communication barriers. As a result, a
significant proportion of younger workers wish to return to office work—Unispace research reveals that 69 per cent of
18 to 34-year-olds surveyed would like to return to the workplace full-time in
future—the highest of any age group.
Remote and in-office work
each bring their own benefits; beyond flexibility, the former also reduces
commute time (to zero), effectively facilitates individual focus work, and has
led to increased productivity. In Singapore, cultural nuances add more
dimensions—due to high living costs, many younger professionals still live with
their parents and may even share rooms with other family members, which
complicates home-based working situations. Furthermore, across the past 18
months, many younger workers have begun new jobs entirely remotely, and the
lack of face-to-face relationship building has also impacted their
psychological safety around seeking help and collaborating with others.
On the other hand,
office-based working fosters easy communication and collaboration opportunities
through the work day. A key benefit for younger early-career professionals is
around networking; the workplace setting facilitates organic socialisation, and
eventually, longer-term connections are forged with fellow industry
professionals. Separately, just by being in the office, younger employees are
able to work with teams, learn by osmosis and develop critical soft skills.
Through work with the legal sector, Unispace has observed the importance of
in-person mentorship. For example, at the office, junior associates are
frequently assigned seats beside senior partners, enabling the former to
acquire work-related knowledge, and learn critical social and client
interaction skills from the latter.
As companies continue to
navigate the future of work, the workplace should no longer be about
presenteeism and routine, but rather become a purpose-built space with specific
functions. Beyond protective health measures and digital infrastructure, the
office must enable employees to spend time with each other, and empower growth
through mentorship—hence the need for areas that support collaboration and
social connection. At Unispace, recent workplace projects have focused on
helping companies bring their people together—the recent redesign of Boston
Scientific’s regional headquarters featured social-focused spaces such as a
collaboration lounge and training centre.
Amidst the new normal,
employers that demonstrate their authentic brand and express the company’s
purpose through a standout workplace experience, will achieve greater success
in attracting younger talent. Ultimately, this will also contribute to greater
fulfillment, mental wellbeing, loyalty, and overall retention.
Jones is the lead designer for Unispace in Asia. He has worked on projects
across China, Southeast Asia, London and Dubai. Apart from corporate workplace
design, Kristian brings broad expertise across user experience design, creative
direction, workplace and retail strategy, concept and technical design,
branding, and team management.