Have previous predictions on practical office design now shifted, or were we already on track before the pandemic? Our Client Development Manager, Sam Freeman, speculates.
An increasing amount of articles, theories and lets face it, assumptions (no one really knows) suggest we will be faced with a totally new culture and mindset in the office environment after COVID-19. Some even question if offices are required at all – a natural knee jerk reaction when faced with times like these. Due to the situation we find ourselves in, existing workplace trends are being touted as new routes to get us back to work as soon as possible. But these tools and means to assist with our return have been available for some time. Rewind to the tail end of 2019 and we were already talking about agile working, contactless devices, and automated tools to future-proof the office. There are many similarities between what we predicted the future office would look like, and what may soon become the ‘norm’.
‘Agile working’ is a phrase that has been thrown around for several years now and has been adopted whole-heartedly by some companies and organisations. Agile working includes a whole spectrum of practices such as hot-desking and home-working. At Your Workspace we find that there is a ‘pick and mix’ attitude to deciding what aspects to embrace. Is now the time to accept this method of working? These practices certainly lend themselves to supporting social distancing, with just a limited amount of team members using a workspace at a particular time.
No-one is in a rush to be sharing a closed-in space with their colleagues or others anytime soon. Alongside that are concerns about touching the same surfaces as them. Contactless technologies: smart lockers, card readers etc. will no doubt assist with decreasing the chance of cross contamination between individuals. Businesses will need to adjust and adapt their workspace plans, specifying furniture made with anti-bacterial materials, that can withstand being wiped clean after each use.
Changing role of facilities management
Facility management (FM) teams have been put through their paces this year. They have been at the forefront of ensuring their colleagues are provided with a safe and hygienic environment. Tedious tasks such as storage audits and finding lost keys have long been a burden for many of my FM contacts, and we can all agree their time would be better spent making the team feel safe in the workplace. Smart storage solutions that allow remote access, allow facilities teams to stream line their workload to focus on more important tasks, and reduce the amount of face-to-face contact they need to have with users.
Utilising space and real estate costs
Office space comes with a high price tag, business owners focus on the essential space required and ensure it’s utilised throughout their estates. Now more than ever, there will further scrutiny on the space available and how essential it is, with fewer people visiting the office at any one time (assuming a higher number continue to work from home). With less space available for storage, management will need to carefully consider how much is required and the most practical solutions for their teams.
There is no doubt that there will be a new mindset in the workplace for the foreseeable future and employers will need to focus on their team’s well-being as they have done previously. Offices are essential to feed ideas and relationships which pushes back against the idea of them not being essential – more of us will work from home or be provided the option to work from home but there will always be a need both commercially and personally to visit the office which highlights the importance to use the tools and option already available to us. Technology-enhanced workspaces have been encouraged to make life easier for years however, now we may be looking at making this an essential practice to achieve face to face collaboration in a safe, future proof environment, post pandemic.