Published by Becky Freeman
Posted on 11th March 2021
With the Covid vaccines being rolled out at a rapid pace, and the semblance of some sort of normality in the offing, many businesses’ are beginning to plan for their employees’ return to the office in some capacity.
With a huge percentage of the office-based workforce working from home at the moment, businesses are spending time and money considering workplace re-design for when lockdown restrictions end. Whilst for many people working from home has created a good work-life balance in terms of cutting back on time spent commuting, it has also created a sense of ‘home fatigue’, with the lines between working life and family life becoming more blurred.
Time spent in the office, collaborating with colleagues, and benefiting from the social side, will no doubt encourage more people back at their desks.
So, Neil, I guess the big question for lots of people is: Do you think people will return to offices in the same way as they did before?
People will return to the office, but not necessarily as ‘before’. The pandemic has highlighted that a lot of people in many industries can work remotely in a productive manner. The return to offices will also be governed by a few factors.
Does the individual want/need to go back to the office?
Does the company want the staff to come back to the office or not?
As an architect, what do you think a post-Covid office environment will look like? What kind of changes would you recommend?
The office environment post-Covid-19 will need to be one of flexibility. It will require a certain kind of space to cater for the new working environment that will come from the hybrid working style. The workplace will need to become a space for collaboration and a destination that will create a sense of wellbeing for its users. It will also need to be efficient and easy to use. Technology and connectivity will be a key attribute to the modern office moving forward.
How can offices maintain a ‘buzz’ and continue with successful synergy and co-collaboration, all whilst remaining ‘safe’?
Remaining safe will be down to the layout of office and the individual users. With the vaccination process well underway the 2m rule will hopefully be lifted/reduced which will allow users to be able to go back to a level of normality with respect to collaborating in person. The key issue that will need to be addressed is how to ensure the remote users and those that are working from home can feel part of a collaborative process whilst not being in the room. This is where the evolution of AV technology will play a huge part of the new hybrid workspace.
Another element of ensuring safety is the continued use of regular cleaning routines and personal sanitation. We feel that these elements of shared spaces are here to stay and rightly so.
Will different materials play a part in the future of the office environment post-Covid-19? Studies show that materials, such as copper, reduce transmission, but is this realistic for most companies?
Materiality has always played a part in the workplace. Different colours, materials and textures help to define areas and help navigate spaces. Moving forward the choice and specification of materials will be a key part of the defining these new offices/areas and at the front of that will be how easy are these materials to clean/sterilise’ and are the materials robust enough to undertake a vigorous cleaning regime. Ultimately when redesigning and creating new spaces budget is a key part of the process and as always, the idea is to come up with the best design response as cost effectively as possible.
How do you combine safety AND mental wellbeing in office environments going forward?
Safety and wellbeing are intrinsically linked. Whether feeling safe from a pandemic or secure from intruders the office should be a place where the user feels comfortable and relaxed. The key point here is that everyone is different, and everyone has their own anxieties. Generally, though people feel safe around other people which has been counter intuitive during the pandemic. In office environments moving forward a mixture of workspaces and types will allow all users to work how they feel comfortable. This flexibility linked with a high level of cleanliness will be key to the modern workplace and the future of the ever-evolving office.