Transforming the Destination Workplace

The post pandemic workplace is evolving to look very different. Companies are switching to hybrid. They’re reworking offices to factor in a greater need for collaboration, face to face connection, and flexibility. People can work anywhere. Many are unlikely to go back to commuting five days a week. The office has lost its footing as the epicentre of work.

The rise of the destination workplace

From Zoom to Slack to Google Docs, technology has freed people from the nine to five. People in the knowledge economy can work as well on a beach in Bali as they can in an office. But there’s a missing link: face to face time. Coaching and mentoring, creative innovation, team bonding, and company culture are all developed through in-person interactions. To draw a dispersed workforce in, we need to reimagine the office to become a destination that people want to spend time in.

The purpose of the so-called destination workplace is to create a first-class employee experience and bring office life closer to personal life. It’s firmly people focused. It has to be if it’s going to compete with a beach in Bali. Progressive companies such as Google have long recognised the importance of the destination workplace. Other big hitters, such as Deliveroo, have followed suit. Post pandemic workplace culture is accelerating this transition. Employee focused working environments are set to become the norm, not the exception.

In the same way that bricks and mortar stores have responded to the e-commerce boom by amping up the in-store experience, the destination workplace is all about employee experience. The days of the soulless office factory floor are numbered. The most successful modern workplaces will be those that can create a community for employees to engage with. That can mean biophilic office design, nutritious snacks available on site, relaxing socialization space, modern digital infrastructure, and leisure amenities such as access to a gym or lunchtime yoga classes.

  • A well-crafted destination workplace design should:
  • Make work feel like it’s not work
  • Support work, rest, and play
  • Aim to delight employees
  • Create a sense of community
  • Provide a variety of workspaces suited to different work styles
  • Use technology to create a seamless in-office experience, such as desk booking software and smart meetings

Why is a people-first destination workplace so important?

Your people are your biggest assets. From product development to customer service, it’s their effort, experience, and know-how that create value for customers. Take away the people, and a company is an empty building full of technology sat on standby. It’s important to look after them. The working environment you provide will shape your brand.

Part of the reason why your followers support you, it helps attract and retain both customers and employees.
Imagine company A, known for being a dynamic, supportive and energizing place to work and company B, known for the opposite. Regardless of product, which would you rather buy from, or work for? An environment that employees love helps drive loyalty, commitment, and creativity in your company. It’s people focused, and people, not the office, are the future of work.

The role of the future workplace

Pre pandemic, many people imagined that the future of work would be purely digital. We’d all be working in cyberspace, office space rendered entirely redundant. The importance of face-to-face human connection is one of many lessons the pandemic has taught us. Plunged into a digital-only 12 months’ worth of shutdowns, we emerged craving human contact.

The subsequent move to hybrid has turned the future workplace on its head. No longer the default working environment, the role of the office is becoming more specialist. It’s not the factory that workers trudge to every day anymore. Now, it needs to define the company culture and be the hub of the workplace community, drawing people in to connect, collaborate, and create.

Younger workers fear loneliness from long-term home working

Research suggests younger workers are concerned about the lack of social connection in their jobs, as businesses consider how to enable people to do their best work.


San Francisco and London, 8 September 2021: New research from Kadence reveals that since working from home, Gen Z and Millenials feel disproportionately isolated, and say it is negatively impacting their ability to build and develop relationships at work – and potentially harming their career progress.

The survey of 2,000 US and UK office workers found that over two-thirds of workers aged 18 – 34 (67%) say since working from home, they’ve found it harder to make friends and maintain relationships with colleagues. Almost three quarters (71%) feel their work colleagues are more distant, and 54% even say that prolonged remote working has caused them to drift apart from workmates.

When asked how they would feel about continuing to work remotely on a full-time basis, this age group also expressed concerns about being lonely: 81% of younger workers say they would feel more isolated without time in the office, compared to 64% of those aged over 35. 

The older generations have noticed less of an impact on their work relationships over the past year. Almost a third of respondents aged over 35 say their ability to make friends or maintain relationships with colleagues has not changed since working remotely (31%).

The research from hybrid work specialist Kadence also found that continuing to work from home is likely to exacerbate the social disconnect for younger workers and negatively impact their productivity levels. One in seven (70%) fear they will miss out on opportunities to socialize if it becomes permanent, a situation which would result in them enjoying their job less (59%) and finding it harder to focus (63%).

Jonathan Taylor, Managing Psychologist at workplace psychology consultancy, Pearn Kandola, says:

“While it’s important not to stereotype based on age, older workers usually have more years of affirmation from colleagues they can draw upon in remote and hybrid settings, while younger, potentially less experienced workers are in many cases still building up a repository of ‘am I good enough?’.”

“It takes time to build up a sense of self-efficacy, and much of this comes from communication and feedback from others – this is not only what is said, but micro-behaviours too. Submitting a piece of work over email while working remotely and not hearing back is likely to have its impact.”

“Having control over your work is important for development, and so giving employers a degree of choice over remote or hybrid working is vital. As a manager, checking in with employees and being able to notice when team members are struggling should be a priority, regardless of your working setup.”



When asked about the benefits they’d look for in a new role, hybrid working was listed as a top priority for all workers, with more than a third (38%) seeking this type of set-up. Flexible working hours were also seen as crucial by 42% of all workers.

However, it’s clear that the social element is an important driver in productivity and happiness for Gen Z and Millennial workers. Over a quarter (29%) listed regular social and team building events as one of the most attractive employee benefits, alongside a good salary (44%), modern office environment (40%), wellbeing support (40%), and career growth and ongoing training opportunities (38%).

Meanwhile, for workers aged over 35 the social element is less of a contending factor when it comes to job appeal. This generation of workers look for a good salary (58%), generous holiday (51%), flexible working arrangements (50%) and an enhanced pension (43%).

Dan Bladen, CEO of Kadence adds:

“There’s no doubt that the pandemic has shaped the future of work; but more than this, it’s had a fundamental impact on the happiness and wellbeing of workers. While organizations have done their best to adapt, we’ve yet to experience the full consequences, particularly when it comes to the next generation of workers. 

“100% remote working might be convenient for some, but for others it’s a recipe for loneliness – and younger workers have been disproportionately affected. They’re missing out on the benefits of being surrounded by more experienced colleagues and the informal learning and mentoring that comes with this. What’s more, these younger workers are now quitting if they’re not happy.”

“Every employer’s top priority should be to create the best workplace experience they can for their teams. Ensuring that true hybrid working between home and office is enabled will empower workers of all ages, while ensuring that businesses recruit and retain the very best talent.” 

From FORTO to FOMO: How to combat fears of returning to the office

You’ve probably heard of FOMO. You’ll almost definitely have heard of LOL. But are you familiar with FORTO? FORTO stands for fear of returning to the office, and is a very 2021 acronym. As light-hearted as it sounds, it addresses a very real problem. back-to-office anxiety is something many workers are experiencing as they contemplate an end to mandatory remote working.

The Fear of Returning to the Office (FORTO)

They say it takes, on average, 66 days to form a habit – which means work-from-home habits are well and truly entrenched by now. Getting up late. Zoom calls. Sweatpants not chinos.

And habits are hard to break, hence why back-to-office anxiety is a thing. Researchers from MIT found that neuron activity in your brain changes as you form a habit, firing in clusters at the beginning and the end of the behavior. These new patterns help hardwire the behaviour and make it hard to change. Your brain has settled into a routine. If you’re forced to change that routine, it’s unsettling.

For people experiencing FORTO, it’s important to remember that it can be the process of change, rather than the end result, that feels overwhelming.

Struggles of remote working

Some of us took to working from home easily. No more commute. Home comforts. Lunch breaks in the garden. Time with the family. But for many – particularly younger workers – it’s been a struggle.

Being away from the office has been isolating. It has impacted career progression. It has made it harder to establish personal and professional relationships at work. And many workers (44% according to a recent survey of business professionals we carried out) report feeling like they’re “always on” and having a poor work/life balance. Frequent distractions, screen fatigue, and financial pressure are also common complaints.

The benefits of a return to in-person work are very real for many, from rekindling friendships to the buzz of face-to-face collaboration and teamwork.

A hybrid office culture will help with FORTO

As economies open up, another upheaval in workplace culture is on the cards. But this time, it’s different.

The office is changing. Most businesses have made it clear that they don’t intend to return to an office-only model. Commuting five days a week and rows upon rows of messy desks are – we hope – over for the majority.

There’ll be a return to the office of sorts – but it’s unlikely to be the same. Flexibility for employees will be king.

“Employees are in charge, not companies… The employees and the talent market is (sic) going to drive working flexibility, not the companies. Because if a company says these are our rules, they’re not going to have the talent.” says Airbnb CEO and Co-Founder Brian Cesky.

Remote-first means the default is working remotely – whether that’s at home, in a local co-working space or in a coffee shop. Organizations still have offices, but they’re used very differently – usually for collaboration, brainstorming and facilitating the social side of work.

The face-to-face human interaction so crucial for developing relationships and producing great work is not lost, and employees get to enjoy the flexibility of working away from the office if they want to. Often, office space is provided for people who want to come in to do quiet work too, if they don’t have a suitable remote work location available.

Help employees overcome hot desk anxiety

A high-functioning remote-first culture relies on some form of desk-sharing system.

Gone are the days of one desk per person. With a hybrid workplace model, there’s no need. You can use office space more productively and include more social and collaboration spaces.

In the past, shared desks meant hot desking. It had a bad rep, and rightly so. You didn’t know where you’d be sitting, or even if you’d find a workstation at all. Desks weren’t always clean. Get up to go to the bathroom and you’d risk losing your spot.

These problems can be overcome with hoteling office space. Booking software that powers office hoteling, such as Kadence, lets employees reserve a desk in advance using an intuitive app, either as a one-off booking or on a regular cadence. They can choose when they come in, where they sit, and who they sit with. Actual desk usage can inform cleaning rotas, so a clean desk awaits every employee.

For organizations, a desk hoteling software system unleashes the potential of the office in a remote-first culture. You can set up office neighborhoods that cater for different teams’ needs. Your space planning decisions are informed by actual and forecast desk usage data, so you can create a workplace employees can thrive in. You can experiment with different layouts virtually.

Wellbeing tips to overcome anxiety about returning to the office

Paying attention to employee wellbeing when you implement any change in workplace routine will help make sure it goes as smoothly as possible.

1. Avoid uncertainty

Uncertainty is a source of anxiety, so consult employees about changes. Our employee survey toolkit is a great starting point. Once agreed, communicate changes clearly. Fear can be contagious, but so can positivity. Be realistic about concerns but remain upbeat in your communications and focus on the benefits the new setup will bring.

2. Create those water cooler moments

Our recent study of over 1,500 employees revealed that ‘watercooler moments’ were some of the most noted benefits of in-office experience. Reconfigure office design to encourage those serendipitous encounters.

3. Create a seamless experience

Intuitive tools that let employees and teams reserve workspaces easily – from individual desks to meeting rooms – will make the in-office experience as seamless and stress-free as possible.

4. Rebuild community

Rebuild that community feel with social events, workplace apps, digital communication platforms such as Slack and an office setup that encourages connection – such as hub and spoke models and a welcoming “first floor”.

5. Design workplaces focused on wellbeing

From introducing green spaces to natural light and air flow, draw on the principles of biophilic design to promote wellbeing.

A final thought on relieving office anxiety

It’s no surprise that FORTO is preying on the minds of many workers. Neuroscience shows us that change is hard. But a modern, remote-first model that puts flexibility first will help your employees.

Whether they’re fans of remote working or not, they’ll have options and be able to get the best of both worlds. And paying attention to employee wellbeing will make sure the transition is a smooth one.