In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses have been reevaluating their operations. During the immediate lockdown, most companies allowed their staff to work from home, which ensured that the business could continue, at least to a certain extent. While some companies found this a successful way of navigating pandemic restrictions, many have been eager to welcome back into the workplace, seeing it as essential for operational efficiency.
As staff are ushered back into the office, certain precautions are necessary. Not only is the government requiring businesses to follow certain guidelines to prevent a second spike in COVID cases, but the employees themselves are hesitant to share workspaces at the risk of contracting the virus. This has resulted in the office space being adapted, both in design and how it is run.
Sanitising stations and practices are expectedly commonplace. Now, entering a building, bathroom, or communal area comes with dispensed sanitiser as a habit. This extends to the cleaning of areas, which has and will continue to be more frequent. Keyboards, desks, chairs, entrances, exits, timber fire doors, and all other high-risk surfaces must be regularly sanitised to ensure the minimal risk of transmission between workers.
Some office spaces are going even further and redesigning their layouts to spread their staff further apart. Those staff who work directly across from others may now find themselves facing emptiness or a wall instead. Interestingly, despite open-plan office spaces being a relatively new development in the business world, cubicles may already be returning.
These are examples of changes already being made, but what else will happen? Certain traditional office assets, such as conference rooms, look to be replaced. Since it is not always safe to accommodate entire teams in a single room, or comfortable for the staff members themselves, these areas are likely to be used for alternative purposes. If large meetings are, instead, held online then the empty meeting rooms could instead be used for other desks or divided into small rooms instead.
While other office space trends, such as hot desks, will likely struggle to maintain their relevance in a health-conscious world, others, such as remote working, will likely flourish. While many businesses will require staff to be in the office, they may not require them to be every day of the week as remote working proves a safe and productive way of managing a business’ operation.
Reducing the number of hours an office is required to be open or minimising the amount of staff required to attend the workplace at one time allows a business to alleviate its overheads. Offices can become smaller or used for a lesser amount of time. This can be financially appealing for businesses and many employees find it a favourable option too as it minimises their need to commute.
While individual businesses will each find their own balance, it seems likely that office spaces will get, overall, smaller and more flexible, allowing staff members to work safely at all times.