The pandemic has exacerbated feelings of loneliness at work, says Cyril Parsons.
The threat of Coronavirus has changed the way we are likely to engage with the office, potentially risking opportunities to develop meaningful, personal connections at work.
Many businesses are seeking to combat workplace loneliness and to introduce better connectivity, acknowledging workers’ priorities have shifted as we consider the pandemic’s long-term impact on the office and what we need workspaces to deliver to maintain physical and mental health.
Technology, previously the bad guy for its role in reducing the need for human interaction, has become the saviour since lockdown began.
Our only opportunity for visual connection with colleagues has been through hubs and apps like Microsoft Teams and Zoom. We’ve all embraced the technology and that’s likely to stay the same as the return to work continues.
“Technology has become the saviour since lockdown began”
Employers will need to keep championing and investing in the tools available, while encouraging groups to get together, virtually, to combat any feelings of anxiety and isolation that come from working remotely for any period of time. Get togethers can be social as well as work-related. Ultimately, they’re a way to check in and catch up.
As most workers and employers have made a success of working from home, there’s a likelihood that a hybrid style of home office working will continue. Moving forward, more of us will be agile and our offices will be designed for less dense occupation.
The majority of workers have embraced the slower pace of working, along with no commute and an improved work-life balance. However, many have missed the collaboration and social interaction of office life.
Future office design is likely to concentrate on the social and will be styled to provide a comfortable, easy backdrop like a lounge or boutique hotel to provide the right ambience for the forging of positive and meaningful interactions.
Cyril Parsons is joint managing director and co-founder of design and workplace consultancy Office Principles