COVID-19 has certainly disrupted office life. Going back to work for many people is not the same as when they left a few months ago. The workplace design has constantly been adapted to the evolution of COVID-19. What lessons have we learned from the changes?
1. FORWARD THINKING
With no end in sight for the COVID-19 pandemic, the future of businesses is no longer what it used to be. It now comes with millions of questions, assumptions, and speculations. The constant changes of COVID-19 have required companies to think ahead and reimagine the office and work life. The workplace design today needs to be flexible and ready to rapidly respond to the next disruption.
Before the pandemic, most companies tended to have all employees in one big office space in major urban centers. COVID-19 hit and quickly swept through skyscrapers, leaving them as empty as ghost towns when companies made an abrupt shift to let employees work from home. To improve employee productivity and wellbeing, companies had to reinvent the workplace and integrate advanced technologies for videoconferencing and digital collaboration.
The results of working remotely have been better than expected. According to Statistic Canada, once the COVID-19 pandemic is over, approximately 22.5% of businesses expect that 10% or more of their workforce will continue to work remotely, with 47.2% in the information and cultural industries sector and 44.5% in scientific, technical, and service sector.
As the first wave of workers has adjusted to the “new normal”, more and more organizations start reconfiguring their office space and rethinking their real estate to provide better options and capacity for employees to return to the office, while ensuring physical distancing and safety protocols.
Over time, a new “normal” will emerge. Organizations need to think out of the box and look at the bigger picture when redesigning office spaces.
2. SAFETY & SENSITIVITY
Safety is paramount. Thanks to COVID-19, we will probably never feel comfortable touching surfaces in the office, shaking hands with clients, and being physically in the same meeting room. Providing employees with a clean and safe workstation with hand sanitizers, sanitizing wipes and disposable protective equipment disinfect equipment is a must. Many employers have adopted a hybrid working model, allowing up to 50% of their employees in the office to ensure there is sufficient space for employees to practice social distancing. Also, communal kitchen tables, water coolers, and hot-desking are on their way out due to COVID-19 related protocols and restrictions.
In addition, workplace wellness becomes increasingly important for companies to have staff back. In addition to touchless offices, more and more companies have adopted a biophilic office, including inner office plants in the workplace, increasing natural light, and incorporating natural features like wood and stone to create an enjoyable workplace.
3. STAY C.A.L.M – Comfortable – Adaptable – Lenient – Mobile
Eight months ago, COVID-19 proved one thing to us: that is where, when, and how employees work no longer depend on the physical office.
Being nimble and quick-thinking will be essential for companies as they reopen their offices. As employees get into the comfort of working from home in their PJs, it is a challenge for employers to create an attractive office space to encourage their employees to come back. The office space needs to feel comfortable like home, where employees have the freedom to move around and choose a timeline that works for their job and personal lives while adapting to COVID-19 and new corporate cultures.
While all of us have experienced this crisis, we have not all experienced it the same way. As quickly as employees want to adapt to the rapid changes of workspace due to the nature of COVID-19, they need time to adjust their physical environment, personal life, and mindset.
All in all, we are humans. Let’s remember to stay C.A.L.M and go through the pandemic together. More than ever, communication and leniency will be critical during this unprecedented time to have staff buy-in. It is important for employers to consult their employees and understand their concerns and needs before making any major changes in office designs.
Comment below your takeaways for office design following COVID-19. Stay tuned for our next blog as we will be talking about OFFICE DESIGN TRENDS in 2021.