The future of office space has become a highly debated topic since the pandemic saw millions of workers worldwide set up their offices at home.
Two years later, more than half of the global population has been fully vaccinated against the virus. A return to the office is inevitable, if not already a reality for many, but how has the traditional workspace changed? Employees have significantly benefitted from the flexibility that working from home offers, and it’s not likely something they will want to lose. Equally compelling for them, however, is the need to engage with colleagues in person on a regular basis.
In conversation with our clients, we are seeing different dynamics. Technology has made it easy for people to work remotely, and staff save on the time and cost of travelling. But not all staff have access to ideal working environments at home or standby power in the case of outages. At the same time, they still miss their office environment and the social interaction that comes with it.
Although many companies are still uncertain of their future working arrangements, the hybrid model appears the be a front runner for now. More than just a space to work, collaborate and interact with colleagues, office space plays an undeniably vital role in building and maintaining company culture. Working remotely may still work for existing client relationships, but it is hard to establish those relationships with new clients in a virtual setting.
We also anticipate that the changes brought on by the pandemic will influence some of the outdated preconceptions we have about what this space should offer. Historically, a high parking ratio has been preferable, but in the future, we may be able to use our resources more effectively and provide other amenities that are more important.
In terms of vacancies, we are seeing that nodes exposed to an oversupply of office space have been most affected. There may be a demand for nodes closer to residential areas, where people can work closer to home.
Other trends we expect to see in the coming years:
A trend already in play before Covid-19, hot-desking does away with the traditional personal working space, and instead, employees choose where to sit every day on a first-come-first-served basis. Hot desking disrupted old-fashioned office designs by including different co-working zones such as think spaces, and this trend is only going to become more popular.
Companies will need to make it easier for employees to maintain proper hygiene in the COVID-19 era. This may mean adding sinks in kitchens and break rooms or placing multiple hand sanitiser dispensers in key places around the office. In cases where desks are not assigned, employers may consider assigning lockers, file drawers, or cabinets to their staff.
The implementation of hands-free technology will limit surface touching and the risk of spreading a virus in the workplace. Hands-free technology includes everything from touchless check-in solutions for visitors or access control points like doorways, turnstiles, or elevators in a building.
Smart, green buildings
Green buildings already prioritise the Indoor Environmental Quality of a building, and this aspect has become even more important, particularly indoor air quality. Offices of the future will need to ventilate better with outdoor air to dilute airborne contaminants and lower transmission opportunities. HVAC systems should also be updated to improve air circulation and filtration.