When Will Designers be Back in Office?
Mpowered Podcast, Episode 04 Show Notes
Welcome to Mpowered, the podcast brought to you by Material Bank and created by ThinkLab.
In this bite-sized episode, we tackle the question,“When will designers be back in the office?” Host Erica Waayenberg, head of research and content at ThinkLab, shares market research on when when firms are likely to see designers back in office + gives actionable ideas to put in place while navigating the hybrid realm, such as how to recognize the power of mentorship, the questions you should be asking during the project engagement process, and why you should NOT abandon digital tools.
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Welcome to Mpowered, the podcast brought to you by Material Bank and created by ThinkLab. Consider this your new weekly dose of bite-sized actionable insights to help you succeed as a B2B rep. I’m this week’s host, Erica Waayenberg, head of research and content at ThinkLab.
We’ll be answering one key question each week, many of them submitted by you. Want to join in? We’ll share details about how you can submit your question at the end of this episode.
Our question this week: When will designers be back in the office?
According to ThinkLab statistics collected consistently over the past two years, about one in four firms plan to go back to the office full time, whereas three out of four firms plan to remain somewhere on the hybrid spectrum.
Since 2020, the design industry has proven that, while we still do some of our most creative work best in the office, remote work can, well, work. And, with high demand in an increasingly competitive job market, many firms are establishing new policies in response. Examples include:
- “Flagpole Wednesdays”: This is a firm policy where most designers are in the office on Wednesdays, less so on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and even fewer on Mondays and Fridays to allow for longer weekends.
- Other firms are saying “24 hours in-office,” but no one is really policing which days or if designers even need to meet those hours.
- Still other firms are saying, “Work in-office four days a week; work where you would like on Fridays.”
While we figure out the “next normal,” right now, no two firm policies look the same. And that means navigating this new and emerging landscape is more challenging than ever for a rep. But where there’s challenge, there’s also opportunity.
So, what does this mean for you in your role as a rep? It means that what got you here won’t get you there. But here are three actionable ideas to start with when it comes to navigating this new hybrid realm.
- Recognize that mentoring is needed now more than ever. With project work coming back strong and talent hard to come by, most firms are doing all that they can just to keep up on deadlines, and it’s harder to carve out intentional time for mentorship of new professionals. This is where you come in.
Not only can you teach young professionals about your product, you can coach them on what product applications they should avoid, support them by proactively gathering information that maybe a more senior staff member would have known to ask for, and offering to explain, or better yet, help them through the process.
- Be sure you’re asking the right questions throughout your project engagement process.
- Before (The lead-in): I think in an analog world, we can get by with showing up and “winging it.” But this hybrid world will force us to be much more intentional, to be prepared and to help them prepare. Before a product presentation, reach out to the firm and ask, “What would you like to learn or achieve with our time together?” You are overcoming the unspoken obstacle of “Will this be worth my time?” and giving yourself a playbook to success by delivering exactly what they’re looking for.
- During (The interaction): Know where your audience will be sitting. If the experience is hybrid, is there an opportunity to send information or samples to remote attendees ahead of time to create a more equitable experience? While “Where will you be sitting?” was not a social norm previously, now we have a new layer of questions we should be asking: Are all the players in the office that day? Will some be dialing in remotely? If so, is there an opportunity to make the experience equitable for both (for example, sending samples to both locations)?
- After (The follow-up): One of your goals in this hybrid era is to extend the reach of each presentation. How can you make it memorable after the fact? We are hearing stories of internal digital libraries where videos are being cataloged and shared across geographic locations to benefit all employees.
- Don’t abandon digital tools. While reps have long been the connectors to information and resources, in this era, our research shows over and over that architects and designers want to be empowered to self-serve information autonomously. Teaching A&D how and where they can self-serve helps them to be most efficient. Assuring them that you are here to support, problem-solve, suggest alternates, and inspire them with new products shows them that you are their partner.
I’d like to take a moment to thank you for listening in and invite you to listen in each week for more tips and tidbits to empower you as a rep.
Special thanks to Material Bank for partnering with us to provide bite-size, valuable insights for B2B reps in the interior design industry.