“How will office working change after COVID-19?” It’s the question on everyone’s minds at the moment. Here’s our professional opinion on the matter:
Proactive and progressive companies will recognise the benefits of home working on employee productivity and realise that the culture of their company, as well as their real estate and office design, will have to change if they are to harness the benefits of this new age of agile working.
Working 9-5 and offices with long lines of desks will reduce, and more agile/collaborative spaces will be required, supported by fast and efficient IT connectivity. In the words of France’s President Macron: “This is not a time for falling back on comfortable ideology. We need to get off the beaten track, reinvent ourselves, find new ways of living”.
Scheduling too many meetings, enduring long commutes, spending insufficient time with our families. These are all common complaints we’ve long wished we could fix.
Why ask your key employees to waste valuable time commuting to and from a fixed place of work, if they can be more productive working from home? They can use that wasted downtime spent commuting for healthy exercise, promoting wellbeing and fitness to maintain highly efficient and productive output.
Employers who are able to harness fit and active employees will see increased productivity and reduced absenteeism through poor health, as well as a reduced carbon footprint from the lack of travel. A survey of call centre staff found those working from home were 13% more productive and 50% less likely to leave. They also provided their employers with significant savings in office space.
Current UK home working is estimated at 5% of the working population, and post-COVID-19 is anticipated to rise to 15%. However, human beings are intrinsically social creatures and require day to day human interaction, so home working is not the panacea that some gurus would have you believe.
Businesses need to develop interesting, collaborative work spaces, promoting team working and creative thinking in a safe environment if they are to experience long-lasting success.
Over the years, the trend from closed to open plan offices has seen desk sizes reduce from 1.8 to 1.6 metres, and now to 1.4 metres and lower. This trend is likely to reverse as people won’t want to sit so close together. Global real estate consultancy, Cushman and Wakefield have designed the Six Foot Office. It’s a way of transforming existing offices into places where the six foot rule – which governments may mandate – can be observed.
Implementing new layouts to reconfigure the workplace will help with physical distancing and reduce occupancy densities. This will force companies to adopt other strategies to support reduced density in the workplace and reduce contact, such as staggering arrival times.
Supporting social distancing and hygiene regimes, office signage will be used to highlight direction of travel through offices as lane markers could be used in wider corridors to implement a one-way system of foot traffic through the office. Floor decals can be used to identify standing spots in lift lobbies or exclusion zones around desks.
With restriction of travel and reduced office densities and increased home working, technology will be used to aid remote collaboration.
Meeting rooms and collaboration spaces will be equipped with technology for a range of activities. Poseur height tables where informal meetings can be held will become a staple. Standing around a high table equipped with video conferencing facilities supports social inclusion as well as social distancing.
For clients and employees to collaborate or work individually, a variety of landing areas such as soft seating, pods, poseur height tables supported with modular coffee stations and dual reception/business lounge areas will become more prevalent.
Another way to make the office environment healthier is to bring plant life indoors. This can be part of a broader effort toward adding elements of nature to the workplace, known as biophilia. Proponents of this approach maintain that design interventions that incorporate nature or mimic natural systems are linked to decreased stress, enhanced creativity, and accelerated recovery from illness. In the workplace, it can also lead to financial benefits such as a reduction in use of sick days.
Now is the time to start reimagining the culture and working practices in UK businesses to kick start productivity improvements and employee well-being and retention reducing the costly exercise of advertising and recruiting. Great employees feel valued and are happy and satisfied with proactive and progressive employers. Why would they go elsewhere?
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