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Managing the Workplace Environment in 2023 and Beyond

people working at an office

2020 threw every employer for a loop — Workplaces were shuttered, remote work suddenly became the norm, teams that usually collaborated in a common office space were flung about to home offices, co-working hubs and more. Owners and managers struggled just to figure out how to adapt to stay afloat.

As the pandemic began to ease and people returned to workplaces in 2021 and 2022, there were constant juggling acts needed to define “the new normal” — whatever that meant. Employees needed to come back to safe and productive work environments and employers needed to adapt once again to an often in-person/remote hybrid situation.

As we move into 2023, the workplace environment is likely to change again — but what will it look like now and in the future?

1. Technology will be tweaked When COVID hit, everyone was in a scramble to see what technology was on the market to embrace remote work. Services such as Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams all soared in popularity. The solutions may not have been perfect, but they helped manage the crisis. Over the past three years, many of these providers have modified or enhanced their services to offer things employers needed, such as breakout rooms, collaboration options and recording and transcription services. Additionally, employers have gotten a sense for what works and what doesn’t. In 2023, look for these services to further modify their offerings to enhance a hybrid work environment while still supporting those employees in the office.

2. The workplace will be for social engagement not just work During various shutdowns, one thing employees often stated that they missed about their workplace was a sense of camaraderie and social engagement. Many who didn’t realize how much their “office family” was a part of their life found themselves feeling isolated and unmotivated. Additionally, creative juices were often stymied without the in-person energy that comes from a brainstorm session where everyone can feed off a group dynamic. As more employees return to offices, look for opportunities to rebuild those social connections with things like potlucks, office activities and social committees becoming potentially more prevalent than pre-pandemic to reignite that spark of teamwork.

3. Some structures will be mandated by lawHR managers were challenged with constantly changing employee needs and struggles to ensure workplace modifications met all local and state employment laws. Now as the concept of a remote/hybrid workplace will likely be a standard for 2023 and beyond, many legislative bodies are introducing laws and mandates to protect remote workers. New requirements for time off and breaks from video calls are in place in many jurisdictions as well as changes to overtime, layoff and termination rules. To keep your business protected in this new environment, conduct a thorough legal review with your HR team and in house or outside counsel to ensure all of your structures keep you up to code.

4. The physical office will shift again When workers first came back into offices after initial shutdowns, every workspace was modified to keep people apart from each other. Conference rooms were abandoned and break room tables were removed to discourage group gatherings. Slowly, a return to group activities is re-entering the market. However, do not expect the office workspace to go back to exactly how it was before. One large shift you will continue to see is the idea of flexible or modular work spaces that can quickly be modified if needed to accommodate a potential surge or spike where people may want to work further away from each other. Property owners and managers will be keenly aware of tenant needs and expect to see a push for flexibility (versus hard build outs) in workplaces as a key selling point.

5. Employers will need to nudge some workers to return, and get tough with othersThe entire workplace shift through COVID led to things like “The Great Resignation” and “Quiet Quitting” where employees held all the cards and companies were desperate for staff. As threats of a recession loom and more employers are announcing large layoffs, the time may have come for employers to have a little leverage when it comes to insisting employees work at least part time in the office. The pendulum is shifting a bit back to employers as employees are facing rising costs for everything from mortgages to eggs and managers and owners that had to tiptoe around employee demands may find 2023 tipping more in their favor when it comes to dictating a return to the office and the time may come to be tough with employees refusing to modify their arrangement.

6. Opportunities will be out there for office/facility needsOne thing owners can be sure of in 2023 — The traditional sense of office ‘vacancies’ will continue to evolve. Facilities that were constructed and vacant prior to the pandemic may have completely reconfigured to attract tenants. Spaces that might have previously house a single manufacturing company have shifted into a co-op/co-working style to accommodate changing needs. As an owner or manager, 2023 is definitely the year to re-examine your space needs and contractual obligations and examine new opportunities not on the market just a few years ago — To help set your company up for the years to come!

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