Adapting offices for the future of work
- Start date: 24 March 2021
- End date: 24 September 2022
- Funder: UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)
- Principal investigator: Dr Matthew Davis
- Co-investigators: Dr Helen Hughes, Dr Emma Gritt, Professor Chiahuei Wu (Leeds University Business School), Professor Simon Rees (School of Civil Engineering). Researchers: Hannah Collis and Dr Linhao Fang.
COVID-19 changed where we work. In 2019, 5% of the UK workforce worked mainly from home. This reached 44% in May 2020 and remained at 27% in July 2020 when lockdown restrictions eased (Office for National Statistics, 2020).
Homeworking offers flexibility and work-life balance, but most products and services result from collaboration and discussion - work completion and performance are inherently social processes. Organizations must design offices, technologies and working practices that facilitate this social fabric. Businesses are planning for a return to the office and are adapting office space and work practices to retain benefits of remote working and support hybrid working.
One-size office design will not fit all and we cannot assume what solutions “will work”. Businesses are questioning how best to return to the office, how much space and what type of space to retain. This multidisciplinary project supports economic recovery via identifying effective office design and adaptation of work practices to maximise gains and minimise downsides from remote and hybrid working.
In this project we apply a socio-technical approach to:
1) Establish exemplars for design and operation of offices adaptable to COVID-19 constraints, remote and hybrid working;
2) Investigate how different office and work arrangements (e.g., hybrid working) impact social networks, workflow and performance by studying employees in adapted offices (via interviews, high-frequency diary study, social network analysis, building data);
3) Offer recommendations for supporting the transition of workers back into offices;
4) Develop an evidence base to guide office requirement planning.
Our project partners (WorldCC, Atkins, Leeds City Council, Coreus, Walker Morris, OneMedical Group) help us reach a range of industries and contribute data, advice and networks.
Publications and outputs
- Where is your office today – part 2, October 2022
- The impact of remote and hybrid working on workers and organisations, UK Parliament POST briefing, October 2022
- Effective hybrid working for employers and employees (policy brief), June 2022
- Where is your office today – part 1, May 2022
- Stage 1 report, July 2021 (referenced in “Summary of COVID-19 advice provided to Welsh Ministers on 6 August 2021”)
Videos and webinar recordings
- Is hybrid working for you and your business?, Thursday 19 May 2022, Watch the webinar recording here.
- Hybrid and future ways of working: Why one-size can’t fit all, Wednesday 24 November 2021, Watch the webinar recording here.
- Lessons learned and challenges for implementing hybrid working, Wednesday 22 September 2021, Watch the webinar recording here.
- Adapting offices: Returning to the office - what do we know and what do we need to know?, Wednesday 23 June 2021, Watch the webinar recording here.
- The rise of homeworking and the future of the office, March 2021
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Visual summaries (with accessible text versions)
- Office workers survey, August 2021
- Office re-design: hot desking, August 2021
- The importance of good ventilation, July 2021
- Planning your return to the office, July 2021
- Pros and cons of working from home, June 2021
- Homeworking and the future of the office, March 2021.
- How to make hybrid meetings effective, June 2022
- Utilising technology to support hybrid working, May 2022
- Adapting offices for the future of work: A case study with Avnet, March 2022
- How is office design changing to accommodate hybrid and new ways of working?, January 2022
- What do workers want, and need, from an office space?, October 2021
- Creating an ergonomic workspace for those returning to the office, August 2021
- The importance of good ventilation, July 2021
- Preparing for a change of mindset as well as a change of office space, June 2021
- What will the office look like post-pandemic, March 2021
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- The hybrid training gap, Research and Innovation Blog, November 2022
- Does employee choice and control pay off when it comes to hybrid working?, Research and Innovation Blog, November 2022
- Managing hybrid office misfits, Research and Innovation Blog, November 2022
- Returning to the office: How to craft our work for a successful transition, Research and Innovation Blog, March 2022
- Challenges of flexible working for workers, managers, and organisations, Research and Innovation Blog, November 2021
- Hybrid working and workplace networks – how are these things connected, and why should we care?, Research and Innovation Blog, October 2021
- Flexible working revolution remains a work in progress, The University of Leeds, October 2021
- SME COVID-19 challenges and opportunities for the workplace, Research and Innovation Blog, August 2021
- Returning to the office will be a case of trial and error, Research and Innovation Blog, July 2021
- The office-home divide, Research and Innovation Blog, July 2021
- “Why Gen Z workers are starting on the back foot”, BBC Worklife, Dr Helen Hughes. April 2023.
- “Remote working – the inside story”, The HR Director, Issue 221 – March 2023. Dr Helen Hughes wrote an article on how hybrid and remote working has changed the way we network, and what this can mean for both individuals and organisations.
- Look North, BBC One Yorkshire, March 2023. Dr Mathew Davis is interviewed about the growth in office space in Leeds, despite the fact that fewer people are commuting to the office compared to before the pandemic.
- “Imbalance of home and office working causing issues for employees, new research finds” Yorkshire Post, November 2022
- “Firms need to get their hybrid policies and office space right” and “Office of the future? On your bike”, Property Week, November 2022
- “Hybrid working balance isn’t right for a third of people” – Workplace Insight, October 2022
- “Where is your office today” – report launch – Personnel Today, Finance Channel, HR Zone, Human Resources Director, Work Place Insight, Relocate Global, Daily Telegraph (print), Ireland NewsTalk (Radio), Working Mums, June 2022
- The simmering tension between remote and in-office workers, Dr Helen Hughes, BBC Worklife, March 2022. Also referenced in Forbes Hungary and SINA China.
- Long live the (reconfigured) office – Dr Matthew Davis, FT.com, June 2021
- What next for the future of work? Leeds University Business School, May 2021
- Hybrid working models and home-working – Dr Helen Hughes, BBC Radio Leeds Breakfast Show, May 2021
- Why are some people better at working from home than others? – Dr Matthew Davis, BBC Work Life, May 2020
- Future Workplace
System Understanding and Sub-System Utopia through Design Project Design Integration and Optimisation (SUSSUDIO)
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This project - Adapting offices to support COVID-19 secure workplaces and emerging work patterns - is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), as part of UK Research and Innovation’s rapid response to Covid-19.