It is time to reimagine the workplace as offices reopen. The role of the office is expected to change vastly post pandemic.
The 3 key areas that will see changes are health and workplace wellness; purposed and private spaces for focused work; and increasing role of the office for building culture.
LumiNola | E+ | Getty Images
Last spring, CNBC Make It asked workplace experts how the pandemic could change the future of work.
Brent Capron, the interior design director at architecture firm Perkins and Will’s New York studio, predicted workers would come back to the office on a hybrid schedule. They’d continue to do individual focused work from home and convene in office spaces redesigned as “elaborate conference centers” for large gatherings.
As more companies embrace the hybrid work model it also begs the question – what strategy should companies adopt to ensure a successful office reopening?
Companies across the world are thinking about reopening their office doors and welcoming their employees back. Too many, though, are adopting a “wait and see” strategy–that is, they’re planning to unlock their doors and wait to see which–and how many–employees show up. Companies that adopt this approach are setting themselves up for irreparable damage.
As offices reopen there is an on-going debate whether people will return to the office full time or continue to work remotely. Could there be another option that people can choose where to work from?
London WeWork South Bank. Image via WeWork
As we begin to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been much speculation and debate about whether we will return to our old habits of working in the office 5 days a week, or if working from home creates equal or greater productivity. However, many believe that the future of the workforce will largely be focused on a balance between in-person and in-office working, and a form of remote working, that summates into a new, hybrid model. But if you’re not at home, and you’re not working, then you must be somewhere else- exploring the true in-between of a public and a private space. Enter the concept of the “third” place, which is used to describe everything from coffee shops to banks, and even co-working spaces. If you’ve ever studied for an exam at a bookstore, or even dropped into an airport restaurant to catch up on some work, then you too, have visited a “third” place.
As companies dig into to the future state of work within their own organizations, numerous workplace models will be examined, including satellite offices; hub-and-spoke models; networks of smaller, lower-cost office spaces closer to employees’ homes, to name a few. At the same time, the home office market will also grow exponentially. In fact, we have already seen a handful of office furniture manufacturers pivot to direct-to-consumer marketplaces. Regardless of the model, we remain confident that design solutions will revolve around the employee experience, with a keen eye on flexibility and choice, technology, sustainability and wellbeing, inclusion, and diversity—all culminating into culture-driven environments.
When starting your search for office space, keep in mind that there are different models to choose from: traditional, third-space providers, flexible space rentals.
Flexibility has become a key consideration in the business world; when choosing your office space, keep flexibility at the top of your mind to ensure that your office space can grow with your business.
One of the main benefits of flexible space is that there are no hidden costs; you pay a monthly fee for rent, utilities, and maintenance.
Regardless of industry or company size, many organizations throughout the years have chosen to rent office space rather than lease or purchase real estate to build out their headquarters. For years, this has proven to be a beneficial approach to corporate real estate, but times are changing and companies worldwide are increasingly interested in flexible office options.
Technology including artificial intelligence will play an increasing role and driving transformation in the workplace especially AI will influence how we work in the future.
A wave of automation and artificial intelligence adoption by larger firms is expected start reshaping both who works in offices and what they are doing amid a widespread return to the office.
A 2020 survey by Deloitte found that 8 in 10 corporate effects had already implemented some form of robotic process automation, or RPA, a multibillion-dollar industry dedicated to automating repetitive tasks, increasing efficiency and decreasing expenses.
As offices reopen organizations are facing the challenge of managing the workplace to meet the needs of both employees and business. So how and when can companies reopen their offices in a structured and planned manner?
Having worked remotely for more than a year, many professional and administrative workers aren’t eager to return to their offices full time. Those who do come back are likely to find that office designs and routines have changed as businesses rethink the purpose and value of centralized work.
A number of the nation’s biggest firms have announced that post-pandemic they’ll combine workdays at the office and at home.
While the workforce gets ready to return to the office depending on the industry and job nature this return could take different forms. However most industry experts agreed that the workforce will not be returning to a pre-pandemic office.
Lisa Killaby surveyed 20+ workplace designers and strategists on their plans to return the office, client expectations, what they see for the workplace in 2021, and finally what could derail return to work plans.
The survey conducted in late February 2021 included participants located across the US from Boston to Portland to Houston. The participants include individuals from design firms, brokerage companies and other allies with the common thread that all participants are seasoned experts in workplace design and strategy.
Most agreed that the workplace that existed pre-pandemic will shift to accommodate those who have learned to work from home effectively, those who wish to get back to the office and face-to-face collaboration and those that may wish to combine the best if both of these alternatives.
How is the office still relevant in the age of flexible work? Despite the rise in remote work, studies have shown that most workers do not want to work from home all the time. Most would still want to work from the office a few times a week. So what are the primary drivers for workers returning to the office?
Gensler’s 2020 Workplace Survey found that only 12% of workers want to work from home all the time.
Why do employees want to go back to the office? For in-person meetings, socializing, and impromptu face-to-face collaboration.
But it’s also about health, as too much time spent working from home is putting additional strain on work/life separation, leading to stress and burnout.
By now, it’s clear that the office isn’t going away. And yet, with the rise in remote work and an increasing number of companies adopting hybrid work models, it is just as clear that the role of the office has evolved and the workplace is not likely to ever operate the same as it did prior to the coronavirus pandemic.