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Covid-19 has disrupted the working lives of many, changing how and where people do their jobs, but as governments look to ease lockdowns, companies need to plan a safe transition back to work. The question on everyone’s lips is how will the working environment change post-pandemic?
Here’s 10 things for companies to look at as part of their post-pandemic makeovers:
According to a 2019 Savills survey, 73% of workers use an open-plan office and the first significant change we think we’ll see is the density of workplaces; we’ll be restricted to having significantly less people in the space than there was pre-covid. As we seek to reduce germ transmission, offices will need to close off large spaces, think about moving away from open plan collaborative spaces and more towards office workstations. We’re not quite thinking about cubicles but it seems social distancing is here to stay with the WHO advising 1 metre distancing, so there will be a need for the office equivalent of the sneeze guard and better spaced or bigger desks are also likely to feature as people don’t want to sit so closely to each other.
Giving employees the tools they need to stay safe will be paramount so companies will need to budget for increased hygiene equipment to be used daily – think more hand soaps, disposable paper towels vs dishcloths, hand sanitiser and disposable paper placemats for desks. We may even see a demand for gloves and facemask as employees become more health conscious in public spaces, particularly in shared offices.
Security and access will be interlinked, and ideally contactless. Contactless technology could be used for everything from calling the lift, to opening doors securely, to ordering snacks from the vending machine. Mobile app software, facial recognition and beacon technology to alert colleagues to follow restrictions in different areas could all be utilised here.
From a building standpoint, we’ll need to see more focus on ventilation, including openable windows and new building controls for cleaner air flow. Outside space may also be utilised for group meetings vs indoor meeting rooms.
Chances are that if that meeting can be an email, it will be. Due to restrictions on distancing it’s likely we’ll see less teams crammed into meetings rooms for their daily stand up as max numbers for meetings are likely to be enforced according to the footprint of the space. This is where outdoor space could be a great addition to the meeting room facilities for group sessions. Failing that, we’re all well accustomed to group video conferencing by now.
Expect to see a lot of additional signage as offices make the transition back to working life. This is a good cost effective way to introduce changes and keep colleagues well informed. We’ll see a lot of signage for movement restrictions and one way flow, distancing guides including markers on the floor, hygiene advice, and a reminder of new rules and restrictions to keep everyone safe.
Strict restrictions on the preparation and consumption of food are likely to be introduced into offices. In the short term, we may even find that shared kitchens, in office cafeterias and food service outlets remain closed as we get to grips with basic hygiene. However, in the long term, the days of eating your lunch at your desk could be long gone with designated eating areas likely to become the norm.
While we’re on the topic of hygiene, more thorough daily cleans will be on the cards and annual deep cleans may become more regular. For co-working and shared workspace in cities in particular, we could even see non-contact infrared temperature screening for all employees in the lobby. So, what does this do to your commute time and can companies afford this adaptation? If these measures are introduced it’s likely the costs will be passed onto the tenants, so how will companies react to a change in rates at a time where they’re trying to survive?
This is going to challenge the trend towards co-working or shared workspace offices, particularly pre-covid success stories like WeWork, Spaces and Huckletree. These shared workspace businesses are going to have to plan carefully on how to protect workers and encourage the social interaction that made them a success in the first place, but in new ways.
As head of our experiential marketing brand and accountable person for hundreds employees (many of who operate out of shared workspace offices) we spoke to Linda Gallagher, Wave Managing Director for her view:
"Workspaces businesses that win will of course do this safely. They'll re-purpose, focusing on more private spaces and new ways to enable like minded business to grow. I truly believe that human engagement, community and collaboration will be just as important, if not more."
The virus enforced an unplanned global working from home experiment around the world. Now, many workers and companies will be rethinking the importance of and need for work to be tied to an office. Particularly as we see distancing measured enforced in the workplace, it doesn’t make much sense for hordes of people to travel into city centres to work alone, 6 feet away from each other, every single day of the working week. As people become accustomed to working at home, which potentially saves them hundreds on commuting every moth, will workers even want to return to office culture when they know they can do the job from home just as effectively? In the new normal it’s likely that we’ll see a mix of wfh and office life coexisting through the working week. And where we have workers in offices, we predict rotas and staggered working hours to reduce the number of people in the office at any one time
So, after all this, will offices be any safer? Can businesses afford these changes? What happens to productivity and creativity? And what happens to shared workspaces?
At the top of the agenda for many businesses will be affordability of spaces, minimising germ transmission and colleague happiness and productivity. Homeworking will continue, but office life, in some form, will too. The challenge lies in how to adapt workplaces. There will be a fine balance to strike in towns in cities around the world when transitioning back into office locations, particularly in cosmopolitan hubs when we’ve not been used to the hustle and bustle for a period of months during lockdown.
Perhaps as we transition from wfh back into office culture the office will become a place we choose to gather for activities that are better done in person, such as learning, relationship building, brainstorming ideas, social interactions... What do you think?
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