How will the COVID-19 pandemic change office spaces?
21st April 2020
Much of the world’s workforce has been forced into remote working as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The situation has suddenly thrust businesses – whether they were equipped or not – into the digital world where team meetings, conferences and one-to-ones are now mostly taking place online, as everyone complies with social distancing rules. However, once this is all over, will we all return to our normal ways of working? Or will the pandemic highlight certain changes that might be for the better and therefore permanently implemented?
Many businesses will be struggling financially as a result of the pandemic, and it seems likely that some will look to make savings. The way a workforce operates could be top of the list, particularly if remote working has been successful during lock down. Here we look at some of the changes businesses might make after the lock down is lifted.
It might be that business owners looking to make cut backs suddenly question whether they really need large office spaces. If staff have been successfully working from home during the pandemic, there is no reason not to allow that to continue after, particularly for those who prefer this way of working.
Providing hot desks rather than giving every employee their own desk is a way of reducing space and cutting costs. It might be the case that staff only come to the office if they really need to, or split their time between the office and working remotely.
However, businesses looking to implement hot desks will have to think carefully about hygiene. Sharing desks could increase the risk of spreading illnesses, which will be at the forefront of many people’s minds when returning to work, particularly if social distancing rules are still in place.
Data from American firm Garter Finance Practice shows that chief executive officers are already considering the cost benefits of staff working remotely, with nearly a quarter of respondents to a survey saying they will move at least 20 per cent of their on-site employees to permanent remote positions.
However, it seems unlikely that office spaces will be gone for good. The current situation has shown that not seeing people in person is actually really difficult. While technology allows us to continue communicating, it doesn’t replace our need for human connection and our desire to be sociable. Technology can’t replace face-to-face human contact, and many people will be racing back to their offices in glee once the lockdown is over, desperate for some human interaction.
Instead of asking everyone to work from home, businesses might look at reducing office space or creating office hubs with other companies. Companies may look to downsize as more staff work from home, or share office space with other businesses to save on costs.
Increase in space
Business owners looking to the future will be balancing a possible need between reducing costs and cutting down on space, and also ensuring staff are spaced out enough to prevent illnesses spreading. It might be that companies are allowed to let staff return to work but to maintain social distancing guidelines in the office once the strict lockdown is lifted. This will mean a complete restructure of offices for many companies, particularly if staff are sat within close proximity.
Whilst we all hope for an end to the current COVID-19 pandemic, we have been warned of a possible second wave of the virus later in the year. Businesses might want to prepare now for this, ensuring that staff working in the office are well spaced out.
Flexible working space
With most staff working from home during the pandemic, businesses may be looking at how to best use their office space when things return to normal. The situation has given business owners a chance to really consider how an office is used, and whether the current set-up is the most effective use of space.
It might be that staff need more flexible working arrangements, to allow for some to work remotely at times. A range of flexible working spaces allows staff to use different areas for different purposes.
At MovePlan, we work with companies across the world to manage their work spaces and adapt to best meet the needs of the business. Our experts can help companies looking to make the best use of the space they already have. We can help businesses redefine their workplace strategies and adapt office space appropriately, to meet the changing needs of their business after the pandemic.