It’s safe to say COVID-19 has forced the adoption of new ways of working. All of us have made huge adjustments; some of which felt temporary and experimental to begin with, yet are now becoming the norm.
With the approval of a vaccine, we’ll need to reimagine our work life and the return (if there is one) to the office. How can we ensure safe, productive and enjoyable environments in the wake of the pandemic?
Before COVID-19, offices were typically viewed as hubs of productivity: a necessity for any growing organisation. Companies competed for the snazziest inner-city office space, and coworking spaces were a massive trend amongst those in the gig economy. Flexible and remote working was certainly on the rise but was nowhere near as widely adopted as it is today.
Having been forced into digital transformation and remote working, it seems many companies are pleasantly surprised at the results. Faster decision making, quicker relationship building, more new business opportunities, access to a wider range of talent… you can’t argue with the up-sides.
Yet, there’s a risk the satisfaction people are currently experiencing is a result of the social capital already built up within organisations prior to lockdowns. The culture had already been built and relationships already made, so they’ve been easier to maintain. What happens when it comes to scaling – onboarding new staff, building teams remotely?
A return to the office is craved by many of us, even those of us who have taken remote working in our stride. We should be prepared for businesses to require employees to wear masks in the office, spaces to be redesigned to ensure social distancing and movement being restricted in congested areas like entrances.
So, what does the future hold? Perhaps a hybrid approach is the answer.
Workspaces could be redesigned to support the kind of collaboration that cannot happen remotely. They could include individual cubicles, as well as dedicated collaboration spaces. Maybe offices should only be used for VITAL use – but what’s deemed vital? And what impact does this kind of regulation have on culture and productivity?
Technology will play a huge part in helping us return to work safely. We’ll need to be managing which employees are coming to the office, how they enter, how they exit and meeting social distancing guidelines.
Ultimately, companies should really be taking a look at how much space is required, and the reasons for it. The aim is to create a safe environment where people can enjoy their work and collaborate effectively.
We’ve done a good job of adjusting to change so far; the reinvention of office space is just another challenge for us all to embrace.