The business world has experienced rapid change since March 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic started to affect the entire world. The pandemic forced many businesses to send employees home to work due to social distancing rules. But how will this impact offices in the future? Will offices eventually disappear?
No, offices will not disappear. Instead, they will need to meet the changes brought on by the pandemic. Instead, office spaces will go through a “reset” period to meet post-pandemic needs and preferences.
Office Space Reset
The rapid move to remote work can be seen as a vast experiment in how people manage to work from home. In most cases, the results have been extremely positive. Not only has employee satisfaction increased but productivity has also gone way up.
Even so, the office is still a place that’s necessary to build relationships and trust. A business is based on the interactions of its employees, which requires the development of relationships. And relationships need ongoing contact to stay viable. Working together requires trust and cooperation, which are usually enhanced by working together in one physical place.
So, offices will not disappear; instead, they’ll need to adapt and go through a “reset” to meet the needs of a post-pandemic workforce. This will mean making sure the work environment is a safe, healthy place.
Office spaces will be forced to consider upgrades and modifications that make hygiene a top priority. This will be necessary not only to keep people healthy, but also to help employees safe and relieve the anxiety and fear of returning to the office.
Workstations may need to be setup with people facing away from each other, with desks socially distanced. Each desk may need to be fitted out with plexiglass partitions. Physical separation will be key until the development of a vaccine.
Along with physical separation, materials used for surfaces in the office will also undergo a major change. Rather than using porous surface products such as wood, many companies may opt for stone or laminate surfaces, which are easier to clean and disinfect.
Air infiltration will also become a key player as concerns about the airborne spread of viruses and bacteria will continue into the foreseeable future. These systems will also work to improve air quality in buildings and offices and may even include UV light as part of the cleaning system.
Other changes may include the development of flexible schedules on a rotation basis. This will keep the number of people in the office at one time down to a minimum. Another option may be the distributed office. In this scenario, the office headquarters may be divided up into nodes, which are placed around a city or a region. This is another way to help limit the number of employees who work together at any one time.
The Changing Role & Purpose of the Office
Businesses will begin to question the role of the office in their day-to-day operations and culture. From there, decisions will be made on exactly how much space is needed, how many people can work remotely vs in the office, and more.
The office was once the place employees were required to work. This was mainly due to access to necessary office equipment (printers, fax, computers, network). But cloud platforms and storage, along with paperless offices, have made it possible to work from almost anywhere.
Because so many employees have been working at home through 2020, the role of the office will go through a major rethink. In fact, the role of the office may go from a place of work to a place of social interactions. Businesses will still need relationships and company culture in the future. So, office spaces may be repurposed to supporting these efforts.
This is precisely where the agile office space comes into play. Dynamic, flexible workspaces are beginning to become more popular as businesses see their benefits. For example, employees have more flexibility over where and how they work. In an agile office space, employees can choose to work in an open area to collaborate, and then head off to a privacy pod when they need a quiet place to focus.
Office spaces may be repurposed and used differently than in the past; however, they will remain important to all types of businesses when we enter the post-pandemic world.
The pandemic has brought about great changes in the way we work, making technology a crucial part of remote working. However, the digital transformation will not stop when people head back to the office. Instead, technology will become more essential with time.
For this reason, many businesses will begin to consider investing in different types of technology. This may include mobile networking and edge computing tech, implementing the IoT (Internet of Things), along with artificial intelligence, and even more.
Implementing new technologies may also include creating a smart building or smart offices, biometric access controls and more. These can all be integrated into the current office space environment and will continue to work into the future.
Businesses May Downsize
When it comes to optimising space, some businesses may review their current office layout and space requirements. It may also be necessary to review the number of employees on the books. And if companies make the change to a rotating work schedule, will they still need the same amount of office space they have now?
Some businesses will make the decision to reduce the size of their offices. This may be a cost-effective change, which could end up saving them hundreds of thousands on rent. Other companies may even choose to make the move to a service office or coworking spaces, as these office options provide the flexibility needed by today’s employers.
Summing It Up
While Covid has caused major changes in the workplace, offices will continue to be a viable base for businesses around the world. Rather than disappearing, workplaces will continue to adapt to meet the needs and expectations of the workforce.