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The purpose and role of the office

In this episode of Thought starters, Lawrence Goldstone, Partner at PwC and leader of the Future Work practice explores the purpose and role of the office. 

We’ve now reached a new middle ground where we consider what the purpose and the role of the office is. “And there’s a question there between what employers want it to be and what employees need it to be,” says Lawrence.

There are those who want to work remotely to do individual work. But they also want the flexibility to come into an office to collaborate and connect with their team. “People want hybrid. People want the choice to be a bit more in control of how they choose to work, and I think now in this more complex environment that we find ourselves in, there’s a shift towards outcomes,” says Lawrence. 

A recent PwC study of 32,500 global workers revealed that only 10% want to go back to working in an office Monday to Friday. This shows that the employee voice has been fairly strong about what it wants. If employees want to come into the office for a purpose, to collaborate and connect, the question is then how do we enable our spaces to reflect this purpose? 

Lawrence explains how employers have been starting to talk about the future of work across three different horizons. 

  1. Focuses on the conditions around return to work in an office, and involves optimising the space the company already has
  2. Is the redefinition of work
  3. Is the reimagination of work, where companies are being bolder and challenging themselves to rethink what work is in the future.  

“If you bring that back to the office of the future, this reimagination of how do we want to support people to work effectively and productively, and to create new spaces that are thriving zones for people to do their best work?” 

According to Lawrence, nothing beats face-to-face, which is why he doesn’t believe that offices are dead, they just need to be reimagined. 

“In this next phase, we’re going to need to look harder at earning the commute. If we expect and want people to come in, there’s real value and a sense of design and purpose.” 

“We need to rethink about the interactions, the interventions, the design moments that we have, to do the work that we need to do,” concluded Lawrence. 

"Nothing beats face-to-face. This is why I don't believe offices are dead. I think they just need a re-imagination."