The Office of the Future
Musings from our Director, Strategic Relationships, Kristiana Greenwood
I have been talking to many of my colleagues in the property sector to get a feel for what they believe the new office of the future will look like. There is no doubt that our world has changed forever and companies who don’t recognise that and don’t adapt will struggle to find a new norm that is acceptable to their staff and clients.
I had assumed, now that everyone has become used to working from home, that we would be reducing our office footprint, reducing our rental occupancy and working on a strict roster system. However, it is the consensus of many I have spoken to that we will not reduce our office space, but instead pivot and repurpose the existing space. Currently, on average, most companies have 80% of their space for workstations and offices, and 20% for boardrooms and breakout rooms. This will change, and it’s not just because people are used to working from home, but they are also very much in need of social interaction with colleagues and friends.
The new office is very likely to have 20% open plan workstation space and 80% of meeting and conference spaces. Working from home is likely to stay, perhaps 2 or 3 days a week depending on the role of the employee. However, teams will need to come together to discuss projects, to share ideas and to workshop strategies. It is very difficult to do this over a zoom meeting and we get very mentally fatigued when jumping from one online meeting to the next with very little break in between. It doesn’t just affect our mental health, but it also means we don’t move from our desks, or kitchen tables, for hours on end. This is affecting our physical health.
Another interesting observation with zoom meetings is the effect it may have on our staff asking them to invite colleagues and strangers into their homes every day when the camera is on. Most of us socialise with work colleagues but don’t actually have them over to our homes as that is our private sanctuary.
Many may not be comfortable with this so we need to offer them solutions such as a company background or the ability to blur their surroundings, or encourage them to return to the office.
Whilst productivity has apparently gone up when working from home, the actual business’s productivity has suffered from people not getting together and discussing ideas. We work harder, but we are less creative and ultimately creativity make the business more successful. We cannot underestimate the value of a strong social network within a business which really holds it together and underpins the culture of the company.
It is also within an office environment that we are exposed to diversity on all levels, we are with people of different ages, different personalities, different backgrounds and cultures. Just as we encourage our children to embrace diversity, we as adults need this exposure within our own social network.
So, our office space will not reduce in future, but simply be repurposed. We may well introduce new technology such as sensors to check temperatures, face recognition to stop us handling doors, mobile phone access for calling lifts and separate ingress and egress to avoid close contact. With more demand on services such as cleaning there will also be a focus on sustainability, indoor air quality and wellness in the workplace – we will all have to adapt to the new normal but from where I’m sitting, it feels very achievable.