COVID-19 fundamentally modified how businesses operate and professionals work, compelling millions of people to work from home. Technology’s vital part in the workplace is well-recognised, but the pandemic presented unexpected challenges that brought upon new possibilities in this space.
Recent workplace surveys have indicated that around 70% of employees are looking to continue working from home to some extent in a future beyond COVID-19.
Companies that were hesitant to work from home have been thrown into it by the virus – and overall, it has worked.
We have seen how resilient organisations can be and how quickly they have adapted to allow teams to work together while staying apart.
It has become a time of redefining and reimagining.
What are the advantages of remote working?
Working from home can allow for an environment for focus, where individuals can get their own work done outside of the office without needing their colleagues.
It allows employees to be in their own space and work in a way that suits them best. While saving on time like travel to and from the office.
Continuing to give employees the opportunity to work from home can allow for more social distancing in the office – An issue that we will probably be facing for a while to come.
Apart from that, it also allows organisations to think strategically around what their office space requirements actually are now, and the savings that may be reaped through taking on a reduced office footprint.
It begs the question – Why return to the office?
Considering these advantages, organisations around the world are faced with the question of why and how they will return to the physical office. Yet the unfolding of recent months has also presented to us another thing about remote working – it clearly doesn’t always work.
For some, working from home is not the right environment for focused work.
Managing a balance between small children, a heavy work schedule and other home duties that would otherwise have waited until after work have now taken on a whole new meaning.
Home can present a lot of distractions and the lines between work and home can start to blur. Doing that ‘one more email’ is no longer limited by the evening commute, and instead, it can be easy to continue working through the task list long into the night.
And yes, no travel does save time, yet the transit home from the office can be the time for employees to switch off from their work day and add routine to the week.
The physical office still needs to exist and it needs to provide opportunities for focus spaces and collaboration for individuals and for teams to come together – it has to.
So what is the future of the office?
The office environment post-covid is no longer the 5-days-a-week inhabitance we once knew, but now a destination for individuals to come together, in a safe, socially distanced way, to collaborate and socialise with their colleagues.
We know that extended periods of time away from colleagues can have negative impacts on physical and mental wellbeing, so a carefully balanced approach for returning to the office needs to be taken.
The office still remains vital ingredient to successful peer training and learning, particularly for junior employees who gain crucial career development advice when working alongside senior colleagues.
Now more than ever, the workplace needs to become a safe, positive environment for colleagues to come and work together as a team.
No longer do we view the office solely as place to fulfil one’s work rituals, but now a destination to collaborate, learn, and immerse oneself in the team culture.
The physical transformation:
In a world of unpredictable change, its fair to say the workplace we once knew has begun a covid-induced metamorphosis. No doubt the extent of this will vary between organisations, but from now on, the ‘office’ will always be viewed through a different set of lenses.
Meeting rooms in offices will still need to be available for private discussions but the capacity may reduce drastically.
Social distancing will mean people can work together but spread out within the space.
Already, we can see this leading more opportunities for virtual meetings or semi enclosed spaces to give people the comfort of a larger space to meet.
With social distance measures in place, more open meeting and agile meeting environments will be the safest way for people to collaborate and meet without being in an enclosed room or on a screen.
And even in years to come once the virus has past, one thing will remain: flexibility.
Having stand up tables and flexible furniture will allow for people to meet and collaborate in a quicker and safer way.
The concept of providing staff with the ‘tools’ to create their own space to meet the demands of the current situation is an ever-emerging theme in the design world, and it is this adaptability of workspaces that allows staff to take ownership of their work and thrive.
The human element:
Ultimately, coming together in the workplace to socialize and collaborate will become the greatest purpose that the new office can fulfill.
After months working apart, employees now say the main reason they want to come back to the office is to be with other people, socialize and collaborate in ways that just aren’t possible remotely.
That’s why a diverse range of spaces in the office that support these work modes, and collaboration in particular, will not go away.
What’s more, they are likely to be even more desired.
So how do we define a new workplace destination?
In a time where employees have the opportunity to work from anywhere, the office needs to become a destination people want to come to. While perhaps smaller, and no doubt more efficient, the physical space of the future needs to be the nucleus that establishes and maintains your organisational and team identity.
It is this ‘sphere’ or ‘hub’ of human interaction and team culture that has forced the workplace to take on a new meaning, and established itself as a destination of choice.
While staff may now have increased choice in working from ‘anywhere’ on certain days, it will be the re-imagined workplace of creativity, collaboration, and flexibility that will establish consistency within the team and ensure a destination for staff where ‘there’s no place like work’.
Join the team at Contour Interiors for one of our ‘Future Ways of Working’ strategy sessions to further understand workplaces of the future, and how this relates specifically to your organization.
COVID-19 has provided numerous challenges to the public, businesses, and governments. Companies all across the world acted as quickly as they could to keep employees safe while ensuring business continuity despite all restrictions on movement and stay at home orders. In this article we examine the Workplaces of the Future.
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