At OfficeRnD, we always strive to expand our knowledge, learn, and improve. As our experience shows, attending industry-leading conferences is a great way to achieve that.

And this year’s CoreNet Global Summit in Chicago was a blast in many aspects. We gained valuable insights about the future of hybrid work that we can’t wait to share with you.

Without further ado, let’s dive in.

#1 The Return To The Office Is Dead

It seems that people are still more concerned about the Great Resignation than the upcoming global recession.

How could they not be?

Based on the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), close to 4.2 million employees quit their jobs in August 2022. It’s natural to be more agitated about something happening right here and right now rather than speculating about the future.

Interestingly, the anticipated push to return employees to the office for more days is not expected. In fact, no one, even managers, doesn’t want to spend more than 2-3 days per week on-site, especially in NA and EMEA.

As of right now, the mass return to the office is still fiction than fact.

A key observation is that the willingness to go to the office in the USA varies largely depending on the size of the city. And as it turns out, the smaller the city, the higher the time spent in the office:

  • In megacities such as New York, for example, people go to the office once per week, usually on Wednesday, spending 9-12 hours trying to fit all important face-to-face meetings
  • In large cities (Chicago), the time spent in the office is twice per week
  • In small and medium cities (like Phoenix), office attendance is the highest – 4-5 days per week.

That doesn’t come as a surprise, given one apparent reason – the shorter commute in smaller cities.

It’s clear that the size of the city impacts the hybrid work policies, which brings us to the next point.

#2 Measuring Hybrid Work Policies Is Still Difficult

Most companies still don’t have a viable way of measuring the efficiency of their hybrid work policies.

measuring hybrid work success

Moreover, given the dynamicity of the workspace landscape, a definitive solution is yet to be expected. What’s most important for organizations is setting the right expectations for their employees, experimenting, learning quickly, and iterating on their existing policies.

#3 Employers Don’t Rigidly Enforce Hybrid Work Policies

Most companies require employees to be in the office two days per week. However, very few actually track presence.

What does that mean?

Employers are aware that enacting a strict return to the office policy might lead to decreased morale, especially among teams that used to work remotely before the pandemic.

Such a recent example is the infamous case of Elon Musk and Tesla.

Instead, companies realize that the key to hybrid work success is having a people-first approach that elegantly stimulates intentional collaboration.

#4 Physical Space Is For Collaboration

The office space doesn’t just accommodate desks, chairs, and meeting rooms. It empowers collaboration and allows people to connect, create, and thrive together.

physical space collaboration

The good news is that companies are investing efforts into redesigning their physical space to boost collaboration based on interest and group size:

  • Communities – In large corporations, you can spot dedicated spaces allocated for gyms and large kitchens that attract cooking aficionados and fitness lovers. It’s not rare to see big Cafés too, where people could just sit and relax or discuss work in a more informal setting.
  • Groups – it’s not a secret that office neighborhoods boost productivity. That’s why companies include them in their floor plan along with improved meeting rooms.
  • Individuals – small, quiet spaces are needed for focused work and one-on-one meetings. That’s why huddles have become more and more popular.

#5 Employees Come To The Office For The Human Connection

Remote working is good, but it comes with its disadvantages, and this is something that even hardcore remote workers admit.

The isolation, long working hours, poor home office setups, and prolonged sitting are among the reasons that cause employees to endure the commute to the office.

But the most essential motivator remains the human connection. People often visit the office for:

  • Planned team celebrations – a good example is gathering for All-hands meetings each quarter to celebrate the progress of the company with food and drinks and to socialize
  • Learning and development opportunities – in-person training is often more hands-on and interactive
  • Office amenities – game rooms, open green spaces, and libraries are just some of the amenities that bring employees to the office

#6 It’s More About Places Than Just Spaces

Many companies have begun to understand that turning spaces into places is paramount to boosting productivity and engagement.

coworking space collaboration place

What is space?

It’s just carpeted floor mats, wooden desks, and vinyl chairs carefully arranged between four concrete walls. It’s boring. And it’s lifeless.

A place, on the other hand, is a space with people. A space with meaning and purpose that stimulates human interaction, and creativity. It’s a place where people can gather and share an experience together.

It’s good to see that more and more companies are trying to make the office feel like home.

#7 Hybrid Workplaces Are Now Intentional Workplaces

The RTO didn’t go as planned. It was a mess that created a glaring disconnect between employers and employees.

The traditional return to the office is doomed with a negative connotation. That’s why now it’s all about intentional workplaces rather than hybrid workplaces.

Employees feel they should come to a hybrid workplace for no reason other than “because I said so”.

Conversely, an intentional workplace:

  • creates a work experience that allows people to be their best selves;
  • involves coming to the office together, with intention.

#8 Companies Are Planning To Scale Down Their Real Estate

Most companies keep much of their real estate for the time being. However, they plan to scale down when they figure out how to go hybrid.

It’s clear that right now, there are more desks than employees in the office. That’s why such a move would reduce real estate and maintenance costs.

In Conclusion

As you can see, the future of hybrid work is dynamic.

Here are the key takeaways from CoreNet Global Summit this year:

  • Contrary to what’s expected, employers don’t push employees to go back to the office. It’s a delicate process that requires a strategic approach
  • The size of the city affects the hybrid work policies. In smaller cities, employees spend more time in the office
  • The companies that adopt hybrid work policies don’t have an efficient way of measuring their performance. Managers don’t strictly enforce policies and don’t track presence.
  • Most organizations understand that they need to rethink the notion of a hybrid workplace. They must create intentional workplaces to boost collaboration and engagement.
  • Human connection remains the driving force that attracts employees to the office. Employees can stimulate in-person collaboration by transforming dull spaces into vibrant places.

Check out our blog for more hybrid work and future of work insights and don’t miss our article on the best coworking conferences to attend in 2024 and beyond.

Asen Stoyanchev
Senior Content Marketing & SEO Specialist | OfficeRnD
Asen is passionate about flexible working and the future of work. He firmly believes that work flexibility directly impacts one's health and well-being. When he's not writing, Asen spends his time devouring business literature, hiking, and parenting.