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The Post-Covid Office Space: 5 Future Predictions

At this very moment, there are seas of office desks lying dormant across the UK. The pandemic has dramatically changed the way we work, resulting in questions being asked over the role of the office in the future.

A year on from the first lockdown, we have seen a number of developments in the office design world that give insight into what the future may hold. These range from how we approach working practices to how the office impacts employee wellbeing.

In this blog, we look at some of those developments and how they are shaping the office of the future. Read on for our five predictions…

A New Role for the Office

A London office refurbished by Rap Interiors as a breakout space A London office refurbished by Rap Interiors as a breakout space

Not only has video technology made it possible for businesses to function during the pandemic, but it has also opened their eyes to the possibility of long-term flexible working.

This is where employees split their time between the home and the office, meaning their performance is driven by output rather than presence.

Should companies adopt the flexible model full time, they will have to re-define the role of the office. For example, it may be used to host clients, promote the organisation’s culture and provide a space for collaboration. The home, on the other hand, will likely be used primarily for independent work.

With 62% of senior executives and 58% of entry-level saying they want to alternate between the home and office, we expect to see many companies switching to this hybrid working model.

Offices That Support Inclusivity

Office-design-and-fit-out-project-in-St-Albans-London Office-design-and-fit-out-project-in-St-Albans-London

In our recent blog on wellbeing in the workplace, we looked at how one London office is being transformed to support diversity in the workplace. The design takes into account age, gender, technical literacy, physical and cognitive ability and culture.

The space will be fully accessible to address the needs of those with mobility, sensory, mental and neurological issues. It will also provide hundreds of “unassigned” workstations to fit different work and personality preferences.

Another interesting aspect of the design is the emphasis on connecting young and old. The office will include a hub where the older generation can teach younger generations and vice versa.

At a time when working employees are missing out on valuable training and guidance from one another, this is a welcome insight into how the office could be used for skill-sharing and team building.

A Rise in Co-Working and Flex Offices

breakout area for the hudl office fit out in london breakout area for the hudl office fit out in london

The pandemic will undoubtedly give rise to more freelancers and start-ups, so we expect to see spaces popping up to cater to the growing “gig economy”.

Such spaces include co-working and flexible offices, as these are ideal for those that can’t commit to long-term contracts. Typically, members pay a monthly fee to use the space, making it a viable alternative to a fixed address.

While co-working and flex offices were on the rise before the pandemic, it is likely we’ll see an acceleration in this working model. In fact, we learned recently that one major shopping centre has recently applied for planning permission to convert two former retail spaces into flexible offices.

With 17,532 store closures in 2020, could this be a way of breathing life back into the high street as well? With the potential for increased footfall, we think it sounds like a smart idea.

Explore Five Cool Co-Working Spaces in Kent Here.

Offices Geared for Better Wellbeing

It can be said that businesses will learn some valuable lessons from the pandemic. Addressing how physical and mental health has been impacted due to COVID-19 is shaping future workplace wellbeing.

With a wealth of statistics out there also showing that addressing staff wellbeing can reap financial rewards for businesses, there’s no doubt that everyone will benefit from a pro-wellbeing approach. Here are a few considerations:

Improved Air Quality

The pandemic has brought the subject of indoor air quality to light, so we expect to see more companies addressing this in their workspaces. With 80% of employees saying that poor air quality negatively affects their health, it’s something that shouldn’t be ignored.

Exercise-Enabling Spaces

With more people walking and cycling during the pandemic, businesses will benefit from offering exercise-enabling spaces. Whether it be introducing bike storage or a small on-site gym, employees will be thankful of spaces where the can catch some endorphin-boosting exercise. In Google’s case, its new London HQ is equipped with a 25-metre swimming pool and basketball court!

A Hybrid Approach

One big takeaway from our blog was that many employees have found that home working has had a negative impact on their mental health. Despite this, many want to alternate their time between the home and office in the future. This again points towards a more flexible model, where employees can enjoy the autonomy of home working while using the office for collaborative tasks.

A Re-Defined Use of Space

We’ve already mentioned how some offices will likely take on a new role due to a rise in flexible working. For some businesses, this will mean that there will be some space left over to play with. The question for those companies will be “how can that space be optimised”?

For some, one solution will be to “sub-let”, where a portion of the office is let out to another company. This requires permission from the landlord and, if granted, can be a shrewd way of optimising the extra space.

Others may simply keep the space to themselves but hire a refurbishment company to create an agile environment that helps employees to perform and feel connected. This is a bold departure from the traditional model of squeezing as many people onto one floorplate to control costs, but in doing so businesses may benefit from the greater output from staff.

Many businesses are also redefining the role of their front of house space and team and the purpose of a front of house operation is up for debate.

A survey by the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management shows 57% of businesses are implementing new technology to help with the front of house duties while 35% are reducing the size of their teams as a result of COVID-19.

While it’s still extremely important for receptionists to greet visitors and manage the switchboard, COVID-19 has sped up decision-making to implement new technology which in turn will influence the design of the reception area in many workplaces.

Thanks for Reading!

While nobody has a crystal ball, the developments we have seen 12 months have enabled us to gain a better picture as to what the future will hold for office space.

Already we can see that there are plenty of exciting changes going on, indicating that the future of the office looks bright for businesses and staff alike.

As refurbishment contractors, we’re looking forward to seeing — and being a part of — further developments as we move closer to a post-COVID world.