Office openings to come

Howard Dawber, the Head of Strategy at the Canary Wharf Group recently told BBC Business News that many people had become tired of working at home during Covid-19 restrictions. He said: “Working from home for the first couple of months of last year when the sun was shining and people were enjoying perhaps a more flexible environment, there was a sense that this was going to be a short-term process.”

He also explained that workers in London’s financial hub missed the opportunity to collaborate with friends at the office and hankered after the stimulating buzz of city life. While some business leaders have stated that working from home is going to be at the heart of the “new normal” of working life, we share Mr Dawber’s belief that the office has a hugely important role to play in both a working and social context.

However, the length and seriousness of the pandemic crisis has meant the return to office-based working is likely to be gradual and changes will be required in the work patterns of many businesses.

Creating flexible infrastructures

Moves towards agile working, which included the trend of working from home, pre-date the outbreak of Covid-19. However, a global survey of working professionals by the Robert Walters Group, which we featured in a blog entry last September showed that the majority of the sample wanted the new flexible work patterns to include visits to the office as part of the working schedule.

The survey report states that: “A partly flexible approach is favoured by most workers. 40% of professionals would opt to work at home at least one day per week. 27% of employees would like to limit working from home to a few days per month.”

One major issue that the pandemic has raised is apprehension about catching infection when commuting to the office, especially by public transport. So last month, when we posted our entry titled “2021 Trends for Commercial Interiors” we described the hub and spoke model, a working structure highlighted by CBRE Canada.

This model gives employees the opportunity to work closer to home in smaller regional “spoke” offices while travelling in to a larger central “hub” office, such as the company headquarters, for specific team meetings and strategic discussions. A dispersed network of operations may well be an element of flexible working used by more companies in the future.

Configuring new spaces

The return to the workplace may well be to an environment that has fundamentally changed. Communications technology has increased the potential of effective remote working, so some employees may only be present at their main place of work on a part-time basis.

This would potentially create additional floor space if work stations are removed. It will be important that these newly opened spaces are configured to meet the specific requirements of the business and its employees.

An office is a place of work, but also offers a cultural and social environment. Nurturing the physical and mental wellbeing of returning employees will be an important priority. It will also be vital to rekindle the team spirit through social interaction. Therefore, businesses should consider using the new space for expanded and improved breakout facilities, new recreation areas and other options that would encourage agile working and collaboration.

Glenside has decades of experience in office design and the fitting out of commercial interiors. Please take a look at the range of projects we have undertaken, which may give you some ideas about how you could enhance your own place of work. Then please feel free to contact us for any advice your business needs on changes you could make to your working environment