How will COVID-19 change the workplace of the future?

October 15, 2020 | Commercial Real Estate

birds eye view off balcony of the workplace of the future

As the pandemic continues to wreak havoc across the globe, how will the workplace adapt to a new normal? Apart from short term changes, what’s the long-term impact that will inevitably shape the future of work?  

The office – it’s still important.

At its heart, the office is designed to boost productivity and connectivity, and have always served as central hubs for businesses. And, despite waves of transformative digital technologies over the past two decades, the fundamental value that an office provides remains steadfast. 

In a post-pandemic world, offices will continue as the main engine for business activity. But changes will need to be made. Here’s where we think the workplace of the future will look like…

1. Greater Corporate Flexibility 

Telecommuting, once an early 2000s buzz word, has become the standard mode of operation in this pandemic-ridden climate. Given the restrictions and safety protocols, what was once considered a “staff perk” has now become a survival tool for most businesses. But people are beginning to wonder whether their remote working arrangement will continue once the dust settles. 

Now that most workers have experienced this once novel concept, the benefits of working from home have become apparent; from having more flexibility over one’s day to greater work-life balance. And so, working from home has gained widespread traction and acceptance, and businesses have been forced to digitise so that their workers can continue to work productively. 

However, it is unlikely that businesses will implement permanent remote working plans – the office still holds incredible value for interaction, collaboration, innovation and organisation culture. They are places where people aggregate, share knowledge and pool talents. And around 65% of workers say they would head back to the office as soon as they were able to do so. 

So, what we are likely to see is companies adopting hybrid arrangements that allow for flexibility and adaptability. 

For example:
  1. Giving employees the freedom to work from home should their work allow. 
  2. Reclassification of work requirements and arrangements. For example, moving from a five-day week at work to a four or three-day week based on an employee’s job scope and the feasibility of the arrangement.
  3. Social distancing and staff rotations. Forming work teams with varying skill sets to ensure a seamless transition from one team to another to minimise physical interaction and safeguard business continuity 
  4. Looser dress code enforcement and a movement towards casual attire in the workplace. This coincides with a higher emphasis on employees’ wellbeing and comfort.

social distancing in the workplace of the future

2. Re-designing Office Space 

Despite the shift in working behaviour, it’s important to note that physical office spaces remain highly relevant, so long as they are safe, conducive and desirable. This means it’s never been more important to plan out well-designed workspaces.

 Some food for thought:
  1. Changes to hot-desk practices – Conduct and regulate contact tracing for each desk and ensure thorough disinfection after every usage. 
  2. Reconfiguring office space – Ensure distance between workspaces and reduce the total number of occupants in the office at any point in time. Back-to-back or side-to-side workplace arrangements are popular. So are perspex screens, which can act as partitions between work areas and prevent cross-contamination. 
  3. One-way system in walkways – Similar to the approach adopted by healthcare workers in hospitals
  4. Social and physical distancing in common spaces – Install floor markers and signage to remind workers of restrictions and requirements
  5. Floor or zone separation of the air conditioning system – This can help reduce airborne pathogens being recirculated
  6. Measures to promote personal hygiene – To ensure a clean and sanitary office environment such as:
    1. Installation of more hand sanitising units, antibacterial wipe dispensers and availability of disposable masks 
    2. More frequent cleaning procedures for high traffic contact areas, such as lift buttons and door handles 
    3. Contactless technologies (for example, a facial recognition system) to reduce touchpoints
    4. Purchasing easy-to-clean infrastructure and furniture – For example, replacing furniture with absorbent fabrics with alternatives that are easy to wipe down 

Though some of these adjustments will incur capital and operational costs in the short term, they will serve businesses well in the long term. No matter what the workplace of the future looks like, it is imperative that everyone works together through these extraordinary times to embrace new normal and pave the way forward. 

Talk to Tenant CS about your current or future workplace

Looking to make a return to the office? Talk to the team at Tenant CS. We can help you with your workplace strategy, landlord negotiations and even office relocation (if you have an upcoming lease expiry and want to take advantage of the current market conditions).

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    The Author

    Timothy Battut joined Tenant CS Australia in 2018 in order to support the tenant representation Sydney team. After one year he moved to Singapore, where he now works for the team as a Business Development Manager.

    Timothy has a Bachelor Double Degree in International Business from Groupe ESC Clermont (France) and can speak three languages (English, French and Spanish).

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