Facilitate recently reported on a possible future scenario conceived by artists, activists and academics, where the workplace and indeed the design of whole towns could revolve around climate change. As a result of the pandemic, many are certainly thinking of what the future of the workplace will look like – especially as remote and agile working has become more vital for businesses to survive.
So, we asked you how the growing trend of mass remote working will play out in the layout of offices and workplaces in the future? What decisions are you making in your businesses that will shape how offices will look in the future and has the pandemic irreversibly changed things?
Alistair Craig, managing director, Anabas
“The way we look at the workplace has been completely reframed by the global pandemic. We won’t be going back to how things were, instead, we’ll be taking the changes to date and moving forwards. I see it as healthy progression, a pivotal moment even. Covid-19 has accelerated the work-from-home/hybrid model that many organisations were beginning to adopt, albeit slowly.
The future workplace will be redesigned around collaboration, connection, productivity and socialising. But it will still need to have spaces for quiet, focused work for those who can’t, or don’t want to create this environment elsewhere. Work will become more agile and people will have greater flexibility to choose where this takes place depending on what tasks they’re working on.
We will see the development of true activity-based working. There will also be a focus on making people’s time in the office as productive as possible. Workplace and facilities professionals will have to learn to market the office as a place to work and make it an attractive option. It will become one of many places where people can do their jobs. Working from home will surely continue but we are already seeing working-from-home fatigue so it’s not going to be the only option. Offices will become our main place to work again, but with more home working and flexibility than before.”
Raj Krishnamurthy, CEO, Freespace
“The workplace of the future will feature a number of innovative technologies such as sensors and mobile apps to support collaboration and planning. Our own booking app is designed to help employees plan their day into work and we have already deployed this globally for a multinational financial services corporation.
"Enabling the reservation of a clean, socially distanced desk for employees to use on their days at work, the app also helps manage communications and questionnaires to ensure employee wellbeing. Furthermore, it helps users to coordinate their visits into work with an inner circle of colleagues ensuring they are there together on the same days and find safe spaces in the vicinity of each other easily.
“The app, which integrates with smart tags on the desks, also becomes a key tool in office based contract tracing. Workplace sensors benefit from collecting a large amount of anonymous information about how spaces are used. Information obtained includes occupancy and a large amount of meta data that contains behavioural aspects of large groups of people influenced by conditions such as space design, availability by type, work pattern, nature of work, weather, transport, density, events and environment.
“The data is highly disaggregated but it contains vital insights on human behaviour which has implications for workplace designers, HR, behavioural scientists, occupational therapists and performance consultants. This will be a key tool within the workplace of the future.”
Angela Love, director at Active Workplace Solutions
“Based on what we have been hearing from clients and the feedback we’ve received, the workplace won’t return to its former-self. We have already heard of clients invoking lease break clauses. Therefore, the landscape will alter somewhat and real estate footprints will undoubtedly shrink.
"However, don’t write the office off just yet. This is the opportunity to collectively step back and look in. We must remain positive and upbeat that we have been given that unique chance. It will quickly become evident that the days of squeezing in as many desks as possible are over.
“Most of us are social creatures and need to come together. We are entering a new, creative age where workplaces of the future will be reimagined with collaboration and wellbeing at its core. Workplace leaders will also need to establish what the office can offer their employees, many of which have become used to working from home. It’ll be up to department heads and workplace leaders to establish how to best carve into their workplaces to make these spaces possible.
Many place great value in the social side of the workplace and the opportunity it lends to forge relationships or network with colleagues.”
Amanda Baber, director of business development, Portico
“Last March, the entire office-based work environment was shut down and it’s almost impossible to imagine it returning in the same way. The pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we work so it follows that the way we use workplaces will change as well.
“There is no denying that some organisations and some sectors are already looking at how they can get back to the old normal. Regulatory requirements, technology limitations and traditional cultural preferences are pushing some to get bodies back at office desks as quickly as is it safe to do so. More, even those that were previously reluctant to enable remote working, are recognising the benefits flexibility can deliver in terms of productivity.
“The pandemic has accelerated a change that was already happening. Workplace design had already shifted to allow for more agile zoning and space for creative, collaborative work. The exodus from the office and six months of predominately remote working has proven that large parts of many jobs can be done just as efficiently from home. It has also proven that employees do value the workplace as a place to connect and work together.
“The post-pandemic workplace will need to look and feel different. Businesses will need to create a space that prioritises the employee experience, allows people to effectively engage with colleagues, and provides an environment that encourages productivity, creativity and collaboration. I think it’s fair to suggest that banks of individual desks are going to be a rare sight in the workplace of the future.”
Rachel Hougton, managing director, Business Moves Group
“Our workplace is other people’s workplace – 90 per cent of the team are based at customer sites – so we’re not planning on making any changes to the BMG offices just yet. But it's what our customers are doing that's really telling – or not telling at all, actually, because many haven't made any decisions yet.
“In the early days of pandemic, many people were excited about the prospect of home-working and perhaps believed that remote working could work forever, with the office facilitating communication and collaboration between home and office workers at the same time. To that end, BMG counselled clients who were thinking about investing in video screens and video conferencing facilities for the office to ensure the hybrid workforce had what they needed to operate. But I think that’s beginning to change.
“There’s still a lot of talk about hybrid models but, by the same token, I’m hearing the conflicting idea that you're either all in, or you're all out. Perhaps that’s because video conferences between those working as a small group in an office and those who are dialling in from home just don’t seem to work.
“There is the expectation that the future of the workplace may go back to the way it was before COVID, but I think that’s a bit short sighted. But designing the blueprint for the future office in a time of flux is just as rash, because post-COVID models of work will very much depend on the organisation, the sector, the workforce and business needs. There won’t be a one-size-fits-all model. And that’s why I believe the future of work will continue to be an evolving subject over the coming months and years.”
"We could also see the growth of shared hubs in villages to provide staff without home working space an alternative work location." " It is unlikely that a whole workforce in one building will all be vaccinated and therefore intelligent distancing will still be in place. However, existing office spaces should not need to be screened and distanced as they were at the height of the pandemic. We will of course remain as we are now, minus the full lock-down procedure, until everyone who wants a vaccine has been vaccinated."
"We could also see the growth of shared hubs in villages to provide staff without home working space an alternative work location."