Fit Out, Office Furniture, Sustainability
The future of the office
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the world like nothing we have seen in our history. It has affected our lives in all manner of ways, not least the way we work.
As we emerge from this, and I do not imagine for one minute it is going to be over anytime soon, we are now reviewing our old ‘normal’ and making changes to our daily life.
The working environment has typically been driven by creative themes to enhance engagement and to provide us a place where we can work, play, and socialise. The flexibility of hot desking coupled with facilities to support a work/life balance have played a key element in this pre COVID world. In some respect this will remain but in a much-revised fashion.
During lock down most of us, even those who class themselves as technophobes, have embraced technology and continued where possible to operate from their homes. We have become accustomed to Zoom, Teams and many other platforms which allow us to communicate both internally and externally. This allows business continuation as best as possible. In some cases, we have enjoyed ‘virtual beers’ as an alternative to the typical end of week get together after work.
The challenges we have faced have been varied in the extreme. However, as we begin to re-enter our office space, new systems and processes will apply. We see the 4 areas of risk as follows: –
- Outside the office – the risk is something we are responsible for controlling
- Inner lobby/reception area – Risks become a joint responsibility between the building managers and staff entering and exiting
- Bathrooms – Again, risks are a joint responsibility. However, if these are communal and used by other occupants in the building, the risk is greatly increased.
- Office – The risk now passes to the employer who is responsible for introducing measures to ensure health and safety of staff and visitors alike.
Once inside the office, typical layouts find desks clustered in banks where staff sit face to face with their colleagues. In some cases, these will be divided with low height screens and in others, the division will be defined by computer screens only. This is one of those weak points which need reviewing to avoid possible cross contamination.
Any internal kitchen or break out spaces will also be high risk areas which require strict control procedures to reduce risk. In addition, printer/photocopier hubs used by all staff will have to be reconsidered and surfaces regularly cleaned. These are just small examples of the many challenges we will face when coming back to work.
The economic pressure many companies now face as a direct result of the downturn in activities is immense. Some will seek to reduce their space requirement whilst others look at ways of adapting to accommodate safer working environments. In some cases, companies will be reviewing the need for hot desking as this will, in some organisations, be replaced with home working.
Whilst working from home was a relatively new concept, and provided us with the flexibility we needed to carry on during this period, many people struggled to find a quiet room, somewhere out of the children’s way, or with a good signal – all of which provided their own set of challenges.
Having said that one of the greatest benefits we have seen is the reduction of downtime. For example, in one day I had meetings in Australia, Switzerland and Canada! We have also become reacquainted with nature, talking about wildlife, and posting pictures. Our cars have sat idle on the drive and our carbon emissions have reduced significantly across every corner of the world. We have finally awoken to nature and the environment. This is something we need to keep at the front and centre of policy going forward.
The office however is not going away anytime soon. Face to face meetings, social interaction and team collaboration is something most of us need. In most organisations we find this leads to increased productivity and high staff morale. It also helps keeps us sane! Maybe in future our work life will be a mix of office and home-based activities. Any maybe because of this we will become kinder and more tolerant of others. We can but live in hope!
If you need help in adapting your office, making changes, or simply refreshing the space then give us a call, we would love to hear from you. 0151 255 0850 or email:- firstname.lastname@example.org
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