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Was 2023 the First Year of New Normal Work?

2023 Smarter Working Review

4 years since the pandemic forced us home, have we reached that expected new normal? If so, are we happy or is there more to do? 3 global authorities are not entirely impressed and repeat what needs doing.

For focused work, homes are outperforming offices. No surprise then that traditional office owners are reeling from remote work with depressed occupation. Yet return-to-office commands are getting louder. But seasoned knowledge workers - who enjoy the mix of better productivity with stress-reducing flexibility - grow firmer in their insistence on mature hybrid working.

Many leaders are still stubborn in refusing to embrace true smart work with its more balanced work-styles. No surprise then that burnouts are barely reducing, and talent keeps searching for best workplaces. Especially medium and small businesses are suffering as long-term work disabilities – 1 of 4 in Belgium related to burnout per Belgian Health authorities - are rising with astronomical employer, employee and public health costs. But bosses no longer call all the shots, smart professionals have realized they better take ownership of their productivity and health. Their request: Let me work please, where and when I can perform best whilst staying healthy.

Leesman CEO Tim Oldman is fed up.

His ultimatum called The Workplace RESET - The new minimum viable office (October 2023) reports that office acoustics have not improved since 2010 with an alarming 65% dissatisfaction. He stresses acoustic privacy is really required for increasingly complex knowledge work.

Wellbeing hygiene factors (Air, Temperature, Light and Sound) are non-negotiable, yet some of them remain stubbornly poor. With air quality still unsatisfactory in 38% of the workspaces, notwithstanding COVID guidance.  And given the noticeable fall in importance of informal/unplanned in-person meetings, video first studios at home and the office are crucial.

Unsurprisingly highly personalised domestic workspaces will always beat shared offices. They cannot compete with homes in the most important work activities. And why is it so hard to find a proper, private, enclosed workspace (not a phone booth) in the office? Open landscape office design tyranny?

Professor Esther Sternberg MD prescribes healthy workplaces.

Her Well at Work - Creating wellbeing in any workplace (September 2023), anchored in Integrative Medicine, found little attention has been given to office health since the height of the industrial revolution. So, most offices are not happy workplaces and homes were not designed for work anyhow.


Every building feature impacts human stress response and resilience: outer coverings, shape, orientation, internal layout, floors, walls, furnishings, lighting, sound levels, heating, cooling, ventilation, fragrance.


Increasingly the hybrid future will be one where workers prefer to work from home and those who are more effective working outside home will go out to offices when they feel the need. But a big part of success will not come from sitting or standing still as health is a very active process where resilience building is an important ritual.  So, we need work that provides restorative periods to replenish energy.


Esther instructs architects to design buildings where individual work experiences are placed front and central. Arguing for wellbeing design so people stay healthy, perform at their peak and prevents diseases. Person centric design is achieved through personalisation, where a workplace continuously adapts to needs. And to even out inequity in work settings, home and shared offices will need to be designed much more like TV studios.

Flexible work godfather Andy Lake calls work leaders back to school

Andy Lake’s masterpiece Beyond Hybrid Working (January 2024) advocates mature smart work beyond “2 days here, 3 days there” edicts. With laser focus on the tremendous economic, human and societal flex working benefits; he criticises the environmental nonsense of unnecessary commuting that is a stumbling block towards carbon footprint reduction. With several decades of relentless crusading for more flexible work, he throws his FREE 3rd edition of the Smart Working handbook (December 2023).

Simply Smart Work will accelerate in 2024

Hearing the passionate plea of Tim, Esther and Andy, it is a hard to ignore their wake-up call. They share tested and proven recommendations for Mature Smart Work. Their advice is available to all, from individual contributors to leaders, across profit and public organisations, small and large.

As always, there is a lot to digest. Time thus for Simplified Smarter Working with a framework for EASI knowledge work rituals and wellbeing spaces. Where job one is Energising with frequent restoration breaks to stay resilient. Then unleash the Author in you that gets in flow to produce real value add. Being able to concentrate is the new superpower here with nature as an inspiring catalyst. Sharing that spot-on know-how and expertise will only be valued if impactful across time and space diversity, requiring minimum viable technology. Genuine Interacting, virtual or face-to-face, will be much more enjoyable under these circumstances, benefiting all.

For such you need generous workspaces, starting at home, complemented with likewise appealing, welcoming, healthy, and productive spaces in the extended workplace.

What are we waiting for?

Interested in healthy and inspiring Studios for work, play, and living? Head on over to Savanna Studio

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