It is often said that the only thing which remains constant is change. A year ago, the UK experienced one of its most significant changes to daily life ever – we were instructed to stay at home.
After 12 months of remote working for many, what lasting effects will the COVID-19 pandemic have on the future of the office, and how will working practices change when the lockdowns finish for good?
The Rise Of Remote Working
The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a huge shift in working practices – particularly for office-based workers, who have largely had to work from home throughout the past year.
However, it may be that the pandemic has accelerated an existing trend, not created a new one.
Over recent years there has been an increased desire for flexibility. In the age of the laptop and (for most) a decent home internet connection, the traditional model which advocated the need to be in the office on weekdays from 9am until 5pm was already being questioned.
Therefore, the order to ‘work from home if you can’ was the official endorsement that many people had been dreaming of for the last 10 years.
In effect, the pandemic forced us into a nationwide home working experiment.
As a result, working from home has become second nature to most of us. So does this signal the end of the office?
Well, despite the near-apocalyptic claims at the outset of the pandemic, this is unlikely to be the end of office work, but rather another phase in the evolution of the office.
For example, according to a 2020 survey by Savills, up to 89% of respondents believe that physical office space remains a necessity for companies to operate successfully. And while some employers are considering alternatives, many are still willing to spend large amounts of money on office space.
Clearly then, the office is a lot more than just a place to do work. After all, the home office allows you to do that.
What Does An Office Provide?
Having an office base provides many things of value, such as a sense of separation between work and home that many have lost during the lockdowns. But arguably the most important thing it provides is interaction.
Whether this is in the formal sense of working together with colleagues, or through the informal socialising that happens in the workplace, being together with other team members fosters the business’ culture and internal brand.
No matter how many video calls we have, the creativity and spontaneity of these in-person interactions simply cannot be replicated.
But it is now clear that for most people, working practices will not return to how they were before the pandemic, and that going forwards there will be a blended approach to home and office working.
The physical layout of offices will no doubt change to ensure the safety of employees, and to respect the new emphasis on personal space that the pandemic has provided, but the changes may need to go further.
The office will likely need to cater for the increased movement of employees. We can expect to see hot-desking, breakout spaces, and future office layouts built around greater collaboration.
We may also see a shift from office space being considered a product, to it being deemed a service; not just providing a place to work, but also offering that ‘something extra’ for the organisation and its employees.
There may also be a renewed emphasis on workspaces that enhance the health and wellbeing of employees, and which encourage face-to-face interactions and teamwork.
The office will need to evolve to meet the needs of a workforce which is more mobile than ever before. But what is clear, is that the office can add value to our working lives, and that it must continue to do so if it is going to remain viable in the post COVID-19 world.
The Future Of The Office – Talk To Us!
Are you planning to make changes to your office and the way that it works? It is always good to get a specialist’s opinion on the implications of adjustments.
Our commercial property team is more than happy to talk you through your options, so why not get in touch by calling us on 01752 827013 or emailing the head of the team, Nick Winslet, at firstname.lastname@example.org