2020 - The Future Workplace

2020 – The year of change? Whether we like it or not, we have all had to adapt dramatically as these strange circumstances dictate changes to our lifestyle and way of working.

Over the last decade we have been ideally placed to observe a gradual shift towards a more agile way of working, as employees have demanded more from their environments to allow them to collaborate more effectively. The last 2-3 years have shown a gathering of momentum in this area, and January 2020 was looking to show a continuation of this theme - at a time when COVID19 was just another article on the news… Fast forward to April and with most of the Western world in strict lockdown, offices operating on skeleton staff, and with the majority of employees working remotely, we may well wonder what the future holds for the office as we know it. Here is our take:

Social distancing

As we emerge from this crisis we will tentatively and slowly return to our normal lifestyles; but until a vaccine has been established, we are likely to be expected to maintain social distancing.  The impact this has on the workplace is dramatic. If we work with the 2m radius rule, we suddenly find that our old work environments are no longer suitable.  Many offices will need a redesign or rearrangement of their current furniture layouts to maintain the social distancing. They might need more tea points or coffee stations to reduce congregations of staff during those busy lunch hours. Face-to-face meetings will become less significant and tech will be utilised to connect us to our colleagues.

 

 

What should employers do to make the workplace safe?

What will we do to prevent this happening again? What measures will be put in place? Every organisation will be looking at ways they can implement changes to reduce the chances of infection amongst their workforce which could result from a resurge or another pandemic. Measures could include thermal CCTV screening to monitor staff and visitors’ temperatures as they enter premises, removing touch points via advanced access control systems, or improving general hygiene by installing sensor-operated tech in high usage areas such as washrooms etc. Finding the best door entry systems for offices is vital, as this area is where the most shared touching of surfaces occurs. Having hand sanitiser available immediately after entry will be essential, and having a new front door system put in place may be required.

 

Remote-working

Many companies would never have considered the vast majority of the workforce working remotely pre-lockdown.  However, now we have had to, realisation is increasingly dawning that such an arrangement can actually operate successfully.  With all the tech we currently have at our disposal, we can remain connected and in touch without feeling totally isolated.

Post-lockdown, we think a lot of companies will have a hard look at the number of staff they actually need in the office at any one time.  Cost cutting will be top of the list for those affected most by this crisis, and office consolidation could be a key cost saving.  In the long run, the cost of providing technology to employees to enable them to work from home can easily be recovered through reduced lease costs and rates.

 

 

Social hubs

Offices will no longer be places to go to work only. We have all proved in the last few weeks that we can work from home successfully.  However, as mental health experts in the UK have warned, we need the social interaction to preserve our sanity. And how are companies going to influence their culture when staff are remote working? That is why we think that in the medium- to long-term offices will become social hubs, places where staff come to collaborate and interact, places where we can escape the monotony and isolation of remote working for 2-3 days a week.  In the shorter term, if businesses need to maintain social distancing, the simplest way could be to increase hot desking with staff only having 2-3 days in the office per week - therefore limiting the total density in the office at any one time and allowing staff to spread out to maintain that crucial 2m.

Conclusion

In conclusion, this spells another evolution of the office environment.  The last one was gradual and was a proactive movement in reflection of the working styles of a new generation; whereas this one is a dramatic shift in focus, dictated by our circumstances over a matter of weeks!  The office will not cease to exist; it will just take on a new meaning, a new purpose.  It will become the place for your company to express its culture. Gone will be the traditional office as we know it, with intense rows of desks. The office of tomorrow will be more interactive, more social, and more inclusive.  It will be designed to enhance collaboration and attract people together in a way that cannot be replicated over Zoom or Teams.  It will lose its 'office feel' as more people are used to working in a home environment and the new office seeks to better replicate this. I think it will mean embracing the outside, creating a more natural environment - where ideas can flow and staff can be brought together.  Roll on the office of tomorrow!!

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