Work environments

Team spirit is key

With remote work becoming more common, the question has arisen whether the office will soon lose its importance in the same way that the fax once did. Before long, would only those employees with longer careers remember what an office was and how it used to work? However, it seems unlikely that offices will lose their significance, because people have a deep-seated need for a sense of community, and a team spirit arising from physical proximity is more valuable than ever.

According to data compiled by the WFH Research project, the pandemic accelerated the transfer to multi-location work at a pace that corresponded to a development leap of 30 years. Ways to respond to this change needed to be developed instantly, and there was not enough time to consider all aspects. Now that the situation has stabilised, there is more time to think about how to create balance. It has been estimated that individuals would like to work remotely one more day on average per week than is currently permitted by employers.

Why and when will people come to the office, and what should the office be like?

Martela’s updated workplace survey seeks answers to these questions. Based on the results of the survey, the three most significant factors are face-to-face interaction, collaboration and concentration. The need for face-to-face interaction in particular challenges the flexibility of work: if everyone follows their own schedule and works remotely for around half of the time, the probability of spontaneous meetings at the office is less than 20%. Face-to-face interaction, collaboration and concentration cannot be achieved simultaneously or in the same space. For this reason, creating separate zones for concentration, collaboration, communication and chill-out is important in interior and furniture design.

Two people putting together a puzzle

A well-functioning workplace community needs jointly agreed rules and gentle guidance on when people should come to the office and for what kinds of tasks. In many organisations, one-to-one coaching discussions, on-site workshops, meetings that require creativity, on-site working days for teams, joint coffee breaks and casual after-work events have already been found to be good practices. Planned meetings are particularly important in organisations where employee turnover was high or the number of personnel increased markedly during the pandemic.

"Communality and creating it again after remote work takes time, but if the facilities support it, it helps a lot."

-A specialist from private sector who answered the work environment survey

Niina Nurmi, a researcher in organizational psychology and behaviour at Aalto University, encourages organisations to rethink their practices in the era of hybrid work. She suggests that restarting involves four steps:

  1. First, organisations must agree on new operating practices and norms that support multi-location work. This means, for example, clear instructions on how to combine remote and on-site work and how to manage communication between different locations.
  2. Second, it is important to decide on how the combination of remote and on-site work best supports the needs of teams, not just the needs of individuals.
  3. Third, creating and establishing a new organisational culture requires active measures.
  4. Fourth, the expectations and needs of individuals must be identified, so that goals can be achieved.
In order for the restart of the organisation to be successful, it is first important to understand how the current operating methods are perceived in the organisation and to examine whether individual work and teamwork produce the desired results. Is additional support needed to create the desired culture? At the same time, it is essential to assess whether the organisation's workspaces are up-to-date and whether they correspond to current operating methods and working culture. Is it necessary to update and modify the work facilities to meet the needs of the organisation's current way of working?