As we feel our way through this period of significant change, the way we consider and approach our work has shifted irreversibly. For many office workers, now used to working from home, work is no longer a place to go to but an activity to be done.
The lockdown has peeled the lid off how we feel about work, along with many of the possibilities surrounding how we work and what we hope to get from any new work environment. Now that working from home is a viable option, many of us are keen to retain the work-life balance we’ve managed to achieve and are not eager to return to a daily commute.
This is a time for listening as we reshape the office landscape to make it future fit. Employers should spend time consulting with their teams to find out what people value most about the time they spend in the office.
If a more fluid and blended approach, encompassing home and office, is established, then space will most certainly have to change to accommodate the new requirement.
Reconfiguration is taking place to accommodate social distancing and to ensure workers can be seated safely; however, there will need to be changes to how space is planned and fitted out in the longer term.
An open-plan style dominates current office design. On average, two-thirds of office space is taken up with open-plan desk areas, while the remaining third is split between storage, meeting rooms and social areas. If we adapt our working style, opting to come in just for meetings, collaborative working and to see colleagues, rather than for deep concentration work or to make work calls, this split is very likely to switch around.
The perception of what we need from our workspace has drastically shifted, and we have the opportunity to embed positive habits as we introduce significant change.
This pandemic allows us to take steps towards a more sustainable way of working. It’s not just less work travel and commuting; it’s also a reduction in the amount of electricity used and gases emitted as the office becomes less populated.
During our time working from home, we’ve stopped relying on printers and photocopiers. We now have a chance to reduce such office equipment, contributing to a more environmentally-friendly working model.
What our future offices might look like
What’s been most evident during lockdown is that people miss people and yearn for social interaction. There’ll always be a need for a business to hold space to bring people together so the office will remain intact – however, its current incarnation is unlikely to.
The future office is likely more of a destination; somewhere to go to mix with co-workers. With that in mind, designs may reflect a look more commonly associated with lounge areas and boutique hotels in order to provide the necessary welcome social spaces.
We have a chance to revolutionise the blueprint of the office; to support the shift in culture and to reflect a deeper commitment to staff wellbeing. If we keep that front of mind, then a new and improved office will survive and thrive.