The Future of Office Design after COVID-19
Updated: May 19, 2020
At the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic, in the UK everyone was told to work from home wherever they could. So how many people are now working from home and what will our new normal look like after this is all over? As an office designer I am fascinated to see what happens in the aftermath of the Pandemic but have a good idea of what this may look like. Here are my thoughts....
Lets first look at the facts: In November 2019, there were are an estimated 32.54 Million people in the UK workforce, 9 million are expected to be furloughed and 7.1 million adults across the UK are considered as key workers. This leaves 16.44 million people working from home during the COVID-19 Pandemic. That equates 50.52% of the UK workforce who are now forced into settling into working in a home office or a laptop on their dining table when in 2019, before the pandemic it was more like 5.1%.
This is a huge shift and a very fast push forward into what was already going to happen in the future, but it is just happening at a much faster speed
than we anticipated. It's an exciting change and one that will help preserve the environment we live in, as well as help us all to be happier and healthier in our work life balance.
Some business owners are still concerned that their staff productivity will go down at home, the opposite is in fact true. Productivity and morale increases massively. Many studies support this fact, and propose that a persons happiness, motivation and sense of freedom are generally better among people working from home.
Working from Home Employer Benefits:
Reduce office costs
Increased staff retention
Increased talent available
Working from home gives you a sense of well-being, you spend less time commuting, you can work in your comfortable clothes and you can have an element of flexibility around home duties. It also allows more parents to work where they wouldn't have been able to otherwise thus increasing household income.
Working From Home Employee Benefits:
Increased household income
Lower stress levels
Lower travel costs and time travelling
Less distractions from an office environment
So, after the pandemic, many people will have been put in a situation where they are forced to take the leap of creating a home working setting, being forced to try this out. It will really suit some people, others not so much.
There are downsides to working from home including:
A feeling of isolation or lack of connection to others
Decreased motivation and productivity
Employers struggling to manage / monitor remote staff
The above concerns all have solutions, there is software available to control the monitoring and security of remote working which can tackle some of these issues. Social interaction needs to be encouraged and part of a mandatory setup that ensures remote workers get the support they need to not feel isolated, we may not be able to carry out direct social interaction during COVID-19 but we can once the social distancing measures are lifted.
When the pandemic is over and social distancing is lifted you may want your office to start to change from what is was before. Some people will love working from home and want to do it more, some won't. The realistic scenario is that not everyone will want to work from home and even if they do, most people will not want do do it full time, they will want to split their time between their home and their office so they don't feel isolated but will want the benefits of working from home part of the time. As an employee this will be a fantastic shift in work life balance, as an employer this could save a lot of money in office costs but you will need to change the interior of the office and manage the work-space so that people still feel like an integral part of their team.
What could My Office look like in 12 months?
So imagine 50% of your staff now want to work from home 2 days per week out of 5, if you have 100 staff, you're thinking this could save some serious desk space right? It's not quite that simple but, yes you can certainly reduce your costs if you wish but here are variables.....
Hot-desking is usually the answer to accommodating a reduced work-space area for the same amount of people, for those who don't know, hot-desking is where you do not have a designated desk for everyone, sometimes two people share one desk, sometimes you have a desk booking system where you keep peoples personal belongings in a locker or a lockable drawer on wheels. There are many ways of managing peoples personal belongings and we are forever coming up with new ideas on this.
When providing hot-desking areas you might want to consider reducing desk size and having a more bench style work-space, you could consider a few larger desks mixed in, if you are doing bookable areas for staff that are more office based and smaller spaces for those popping in and out.
One of the short term challenges with hot-desking is cleanliness. If Covid is still around do you really want to touch the same surfaces as someone else? This will pass but for the short term hot-desking will not be considered.
You could also consider adding the following:
Break out spaces in between desks for breaks, meetings and ad-hock working - these must have power close by
Small cubicles / phone booths for private phone calls - with a seat inside - again must have power
Increased break out areas in canteens - again must have power
Increased consideration for break out areas with different types of seating for different employee working styles - all must have power considered
Private Meeting Rooms with large screens for Zoom / Skype / Teams calls
The trouble is, once you have considered adding all of the above (although you don't have to consider everything on the list) you are increasing the space required, this might end up with you using the same space as before. However, you will be giving your staff a much nicer environment and more flexible way of working. Some would say this way of working is far more productive and a way that will attract and retain good quality team members.
If you find yourself having to consider your office space and think you might need an experienced design team to help, call us on 01206 329062 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how we can help you move into the future with your office design :-)