While we are still a long way from completely overcoming COVID-19, the release of effective vaccines has delivered a dose of optimism to many organizations and employees who are trying to plan for a world post-pandemic. Navigating the COVID-19 aftermath will not only be one of the biggest personal challenges many will have to face in their lifetime, but also one of the biggest business challenges in our history.
The ongoing pandemic has forced organizations and employees to adopt new ways of working to keep business running smoothly while minimizing the health risk to employees and clients. It would be a valid assumption that the way people work has been forever changed. Across industries, leaders are uniquely and creatively reimagining how work will continue in the near future.
Before the pandemic, physically working in an office was considered critical to company culture, productivity, and attracting talent. Over the past year, attitudes towards physical office space have changed drastically; a large part of this due to the rise in technology and the effect it has had on the ability of many employees to work effectively from home. This change is forcing businesses to reconstruct how work is being completed.
Although there is no clear answer on how to approach returning to the office post-pandemic, it is becoming clear that the concept of hybrid work schedules is going to become the new normal for many businesses. This change will lead companies to reconsider their workplace strategy.
For example, a company may decide that they will have a team report in-person for an established set of activities such as brainstorming sessions, team building, employee introductions, and client presentations. Other tasks will be designated for remote work that will be performed individually outside the office. The office space would need to be redesigned and reorganized to not only meet social distancing guidelines, but also foster these new purposes of collaboration.
Reimagining and reconstructing work practices will serve as the foundation to an operating model that leverages the best of remote and office work.
Reimagining Office Space
With the likelihood of hybrid work schedules becoming the new normal and readjusting workplace strategies, the experience of coming into the office will need to be truly unique. When employees are presented with a choice of places to work, the office will need to provide them with an overall experience that cannot be found at home. These office spaces should communicate the company culture, while giving off energy that encourages organizational and collaborative energy.
These ideas will most likely be reflected in the physical space by including more team rooms, project war rooms, and meeting rooms. The composition of the office space may shift to fewer individual spaces and more space for collaboration. This approach will also involve questioning the office location. Some companies may continue to keep their offices in big cities in order to obtain top-tier talent and energy; others may abandon the big-city headquarters for a suburban office park to avoid cramped subway commutes and crowded buildings.
Increase in Technology
Although there is no one clear answer to the future of office space, it is apparent that in order to maintain productivity and encourage collaboration, the boundaries between the corporate office and home office must collapse. Video-conferencing, remote collaboration spaces, and chat software have quickly shifted from futuristic ideas to standard practice.
As organizations reconstruct how they work, and identify what work can be completed remotely, employing digital workplace technology will be essential in ensuring the long-term resiliency of their business. Seamlessly connecting this technology with the physical office space will make certain that employees can continue collaboration.
Implementing Wellness Aspects
As organizations welcome staff back with a new reality of mandated masks, hybrid work schedules, and social distancing, they will be doing their best to make the office environment as safe, healthy, and welcoming as possible. While developers and designers are rethinking current and future projects to accommodate a post-pandemic world, current organizations are evaluating their office space and getting creative in order to implement a variety of wellness aspects.
One of the main priorities is accommodating as many touchless digital solutions as possible to limit the spread of COVID-1. Destination elevators, entry points with motion sensors, guest check-in through cell phone QR codes, mobile apps, and more. These technologically advanced features elevate safety levels and ensure the wellbeing of any employees who are making frequent appearances in the office.
Private wellness centers and wellness rooms will become more common. Private workout and meditation spaces where tenants can perform their daily exercise and not have to worry about overcrowded gyms will become popular amenities in many office buildings. Although not a necessity, in the ongoing battle for the best amenities, this will make the list.
Open-air workspace for collaboration, exercise, and co-working will become a new post-pandemic trend. Organizations will look to give employees an area to collaborate in an open-air flow space, whether it be a patio, balcony, or park. This new feature would give employees peace of mind, which in turn allows for more focused collaboration efforts.
As vaccines are distributed and employers begin to produce a plan for returning to work, leadership must ensure that workplaces are both productive and safe. A well-planned return to the office is the ideal time for an organization to reinvent their role and create a better experience for employees, improve productivity and collaboration, and reduce costs. Ultimately, the aim of the office space post-pandemic will still be to create a safe environment where people can enjoy their work, collaborate with colleagues, and achieve the objectives of their organization, but these goals will now be measured under a new set of guidelines.