James McQuivey, VP, Research Director and J. P. Gownder, VP, Principal Analyst

Show Notes:

The past three years upended assumptions about where work could and should be done. Now, as companies consider their long-term plans, how should office buildings figure in? This week on What It Means, Vice President, Research Director James McQuivey and Vice President, Principal Analyst J. P. Gownder discuss the future of the office and how companies can succeed in a hybrid-work world.

Gownder starts the conversation by dispatching the notion of the physical office going away. Given the broad adoption of hybrid-work models, physical offices will remain important. But the future of the office, Gownder says, extends beyond a physical building and comprises “a network of locations, of people, of practices, and of technologies that weave everyone together.” He likens the transition to our conception of maps, which in the past was a large piece of paper and now, also includes Google Maps or Apple Maps.

The shift means that companies need to rethink the purpose of the physical office to maximize the benefit of the time that employees spend together. It also means ensuring that remote employees have the same opportunities as their in-office peers to contribute in meetings and to decision-making. Companies need to strive for “hybrid excellence,” says McQuivey — and while technology can help, it really comes down to managers. One way that managers can help foster an inclusive hybrid culture, he notes, is by experimenting with modes of communication — for example, by deciding how much of what’s discussed in meetings could be handled asynchronously instead.

Later in the episode, the analysts share other examples of practices companies are adopting to succeed with hybrid work and how they are reconfiguring their office space to make in-office time more meaningful. McQuivey emphasizes that space-use decisions should be based on the answers to the fundamental questions, “Why do we want [employees] to come back, and what are we doing to equip them so that they’re here and succeeding?”

Be sure to catch the episode’s close, when Gownder and McQuivey share their predictions for what the office’s evolution will mean over the long term for companies, employees, and managers.