Office buildings are a marvel of modern economy and design. From towering skyscrapers to sprawling campuses and small-town Main Street mainstays, the office building is as much a part of the American growth story as the Louis and Clark Expedition.
Yet, the pandemic and associated quarantine protocols have put the future of the office building into question. While no one knows for sure what the post-pandemic office will look like, we can be nearly certain that as shared workspaces reopen, employees will return to them. Mainly because, unlike home offices, meeting face to face offers more opportunities for both collaboration and socialization.
Studies show that people miss being in the office, with 94 percent of workers missing at least one thing about the office and 48% saying that their focus was better in an office (vs. only 35 percent who felt more productive at home). For every employee who has found their happy place in their home office working quietly alone, there’s another itching to brainstorm in person, eat lunch with friends, and redefine the separation between work life and personal life.
In the short term, social distancing guidelines and a cautious transition back to the workplace require that organizations figure out who most needs to be at the office (and possibly capping staff numbers off at about 30%). This will work well for creating a safe space for teams to meet and collaborate, but even as restrictions ease, we’ll likely continue to see a rotation of staff in the office on a given day depending on who has a good reason to be there and who would rather stay home.
Regardless of how you decide to outline HR policies in this hybrid work environment, figuring out how to manage your actual office space will be an exciting challenge. And since your office lease is likely a multi-year deal, you’ll want to maximize the value to your employees to get a strong return on that investment. According to McKinsey, “although offices have changed in some ways during the past decade, they may need to be entirely rethought and transformed for a post–COVID-19 world.”
What does that mean for you and the way you structure your office space? Given that in-person socialization and in-person collaboration are among the most common reasons staff prefer being in the office, redesigning office buildings to accommodate and foster those advantages safely will be essential.
While much of the adaptations will be unique to a company’s workforce, it’s easy to imagine a workplace that swaps out cramped cubicles or endless open-concept desk spaces with more defined collaborative space that emphasizes the office’s advantages over the home. More than just the office layout, it includes 5G- and IoT-connected office equipmentthat works together to support the goal of safety, productivity, and convenience. Featuring bright and comfortable spaces enabled by commercial-grade smart lighting and diverse environments, these changes give employees more reason to head into the office.
Work from home flexibility has appealed to many employees, and few will want to come back to the same office they left a year ago. But if your office building offers a safe destination experience and a welcome respite from the isolated pandemic lifestyle, that will be different.
The office building of the future will evolve as the needs of your teams change, technology changes, macro-economic and public health conditions change, and your business continues to grow and adapt to these changes.
But one thing is clear, focusing on creating a welcoming and comfortable space for people to gather safely and enjoy the experience of working towards a common goal, the office building will remain a valuable and irreplaceable part of your business and a primary driver of culture.