Last week we discussed why we think the office environment – while not necessarily essential – will still be needed once everything is back to normal.
This week we’re looking into our magic 8-ball and discussing what the new, post-Covid office could look like.
We don’t think the office will disappear despite the success that working from home has been.
But one thing that is evident is that many traditional offices may have to adapt to a more flexible workforce. One that uses the office more as a ‘company hub’, rather than a daily, 9-5 workspace.
These changes, of course, won’t come without their challenges and some considerable work may need to be done in order to adjust and implement these new ideas.
But given that the speed of flexible working adoption has only been increased by the pandemic, businesses should find the positives that these changes will bring, rather than focusing on the work involved in making these modifications.
Our physical environment plays such an important part in working lives. So often this gets overlooked. The current pandemic has forced many to reconsider what they really get out of their workspace. Why should workers get up early and spend a good chunk of their pay cheque on commuting when much of their work could be done at home?
Offices may need to become places built around the worker, rather than built around the work.
So here are just some of the changes we expect to see coming to the office space…
It’s a semi-regular occurrence already. For those that work primarily from a laptop and softphone, the ability to work in one place on one day, and another the next has been the norm for a while; you can probably think of a handful of colleagues who already do this.
But with more of the workforce moving in and out of the office, this could become the rule and not the exception.
Hot desking will also allow people to remain at a distance for those still wary of coming too close to others.
With workers no longer residing at one specific desk in the office, businesses may want to adopt a rota-styled booking system through an app or intranet portal. This would allow employees to book a slot at a moments notice, while allowing office management to easily monitor employee traffic.
Employees can book themselves onto specific days or weeks to attend the office space which doesn’t allow for more than a certain number of people at a time to allow distancing to continue to be observed.
There are many of these applications available. Just type ‘hot desking app’ into Google to see for yourself.
With the option of working from home, and the fact it’s been proven to work, office spaces also need to give workers a reason to make the commute.
It may sound trivial, but the old grey office with half-meter high desk dividers should have gone 10 years ago, let alone continue to remain. Small things like the addition of plants and breakout areas make the space seem less like something out of George Orwell’s 1984 and something more in keeping with the hybrid working world we now must adapt to.
These communal, breakout areas also allow employees to take some time to connect with colleagues.
For those of us who have worked for long periods at home, you’ll know how isolating it can be.
Dedicated spaces while in the office serve as a place for employees to get away from their screen and connect with colleagues for no other reason but to be social and talk about things other than work – these relationships are sometimes as important to maintain as that with your customers.
Breakout areas can also double up as workspaces or casual meeting areas.
Giving employees the option to work from alternative spaces other than desks could boost productivity by removing the mundane routine of working in the same place, as well as giving them a space to work that is just as inviting as the comfort that their home offers.
Your weekly/monthly team catch-ups and more informal meetings can also be conducted from the comfort of these areas. Rather than meeting in the stuffier confines of a formal meeting room, a more comfortable environment like this could be the stimulus needed to generate more creative ideas.
These offices may resemble something more akin to a WeWork, Regus or Spaces, rather than resembling something out of The Office.
Wider Adoption Of Flexible Tech
The flexible space will be a new implementation for many businesses. And those that do so will need the technology to match.
Ensuring the widespread adoption of flexible working devices and software will be paramount to helping companies effectively work no matter where their employees are within the office space.
Larger communal areas may need the video conferencing solutions to match that integrate directly into their wider comms eco-system such as MS Teams, Zoom or Google Meets.
For those hot desking, smaller video and audio solutions will be a necessity. USB headsets and plug-and-play cameras will help employees maintain the highest level of quality while making and taking calls from anywhere.
And finally, IT and technical teams will need to ensure strong, wireless coverage is consistent throughout the office space now more than ever so communication can remain uninterrupted no matter where workers are.
These environments may still be a long way off, and largely predicated on the virus no longer being the threat it currently still is. But this last year has proven that the traditional office environment, for many, is no longer needed in the way it once was.
The hybrid system is fast approaching and the way we work, and what we need from our offices, is quickly changing.
The content keeps on coming.
Next week we’ll be reflecting on five things we’ve learnt from the pandemic. Stay tuned to our LinkedIn page for updates.