The Future of Office Space

COVID-19 has managed to turn 2020 on its head and it doesn’t appear that anything or anybody has fully escaped its wrath. In response to this strange and unprecedented new reality, individuals and businesses across the board have had to rethink how they are operating in the world. Among the things shifting direction is office space. Gone are the days of gathering around the water cooler to catch up on office gossip, but what will they be replaced with?

Greater Focus on Hygiene & Sanitation
If you’re working in an office environment you can certainly expect to see more focus being put on personal hygiene and office sanitation. It won’t be surprising when those cute, motivational posters of cats hanging from trees are replaced with signage reminding employees how to correctly wash their hands and which way to look when they sneeze or cough, but it won’t stop there. There’s a good chance that more autonomous cleaning solutions will be implemented and general cleaning protocols will be greatly amplified. Think self-cleaning toilets and the introduction of electrostatic technology or antimicrobial blue lights, to name a few.

Stricter Employee Policies
In the same vein, you’re likely to see much stricter policies surrounding coming in to work with even the slightest hint of sickness. Wellness checks upon office entry could begin to feel like the new normal. Many companies have already begun to make use of apps and health surveys that can both screen employees and monitor their ongoing well-being.

Spatial Sensors to Promote Social Distancing
The post-COVID office space model will also need to consider maintaining proper social distancing between employees. In addition to spacing desks 6 feet apart, this will likely include following a set flow of traffic to help employees avoid passing one another in close proximity (you can liken it to the arrows taped to the floors in many grocery stores now). New tech options are also emerging that will help to develop spatial intelligence that can count the number of employees in a given space at any time. Employees may be encouraged to spend lunch breaks either eating at their desks and catching up through virtual chat rooms or off-premises.

Increase in Cyber Security
With so many more people accessing their business profiles from unsecured home networks (and an uptick in cybersecurity threats, in general), we will also begin to see a big increase in cybersecurity prevention put into place by companies all across the world. Additionally, there will be a greater need for employee training so that all employees understand the severity of cyberattacks and IT departments can ensure those working from home are adequately protecting their information.

More Touchless Options
Offices of the future may begin to invest more money in low-touch appliances in common areas, as well, and may spring for voice activated options for things like faucets, heating/cooling control centers, and even lights.

More Flexibility
According to recent studies, the majority of employers are planning to allow their staff the flexibility of working remotely, or at least partially remotely. That being said, the workforce appears hesitant to fully embrace this new model. The U.S. Work from Home Survey 2020, conducted by Gensler’s Research Institute in May of this year, concluded that employees were eager to return to the office. In fact, only 12% indicated they would appreciate a full-time work from home model, while 70% reported that they would like to go back to the office due to easier collaboration, greater productivity and more overall satisfaction.

More Collaborative Workspace
Believe it or not, despite the uncertainty this year has brought, the trend towards more open concept and collaborative workspaces still appears to be growing, particularly as the hybrid options that will be available for employees will likely lead to less need for devoted desk space. Shared workspaces will still be popular as the offices not choosing to reopen will leave some employees feeling frustrated and unproductive working from home.

Changing Needs & Locations
We may also begin to see many offices relocating to suburban markets, as opposed to seeking out the always sought-after city centers. This can be largely attributed to a large portion of the office workforce having recently deserted the city and choosing, themselves, to move into these suburban areas. That being said, we do suspect the physical office will still remain an important component of “business as usual.”

The Big Picture
While the future is unpredictable (if this year has taught us only one thing, it’s certainly that), one thing that remains undeniable is that change is happening everywhere we look, and the office model is no exception. The way we work will have to continue to grow and adapt as we all find our footing in this new “normal.”

Stefan Rogers | Senior Vice President
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