Changes you may see

If and when you return to your office after the pandemic, you'll probably notice some changes.

  • The doors of the building may open automatically, so you don't have to touch the handles.
  • You may tell the elevator where to stop, rather than pressing buttons.
  • You may walk into a room full of dividers and well-spaced desks.
  • Meeting rooms and kitchens may have fewer chairs.
  • There may be more frequent cleaning policies and better ventilation systems.

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Working from home

Before the pandemic, only 4 percent of the US workforce worked from home at least half the time. However, the trend of working from home had been gaining momentum for years.

It is estimated that within a couple of years, 30% of people will work from home multiple days per week.

  • Before the pandemic, a lot of company management and leaders were skeptical regarding remote work. But the skepticism will go away because companies recognize that remote work does work.
  • The economic impact of the pandemic will likely force employers to cut costs. They may reduce their rent by letting workers work from home instead of layoffs.
  • Employers had to spend money on new technology and equipment to work from home - a departure from the norm.
  • Employees themselves are also spending more money to create better home offices.

More formalization and company policies around remote work are necessary for the shift to be successful.

A recent study showed that half of the businesses expect less productivity during the pandemic because of a lack of remote work capabilities. Companies that have built up guidelines will have an easier time working from home.

As the public health crisis continues, office space will probably have to be altered to encourage safety.

  • It could mean the reversal of the open office trend that was packing more people into open office spaces.
  • The shift may mean more private spaces or personal offices for individuals, and more distance between desks.
  • The introduction of various types of barriers between desks, including cubicles, could resurface.
  • Less visible may be the action managers take to divert congestion points and clean offices.
  • Fewer employees coming into the office could mean less need for office space.
  • Safety protocols that require people to be spaced at least six feet apart could cause more demand for larger office space.
  • As a result of the new virus and its containment measures, office leasing has slowed. But office properties will be more insulated than other property types like hotels and retail.
  • Spaces with more private areas that might limit the spread of germs may become more popular.

Coworking companies expect an influx of new clients looking to downsize from traditional office space with long lease terms into so-called flexible space.

Coworking companies have seen a rapid decrease in demand due to shelter-in-pace orders. But it's likely temporary. The uncertainty could cause more companies to look for flexible space that can accommodate rapid changes in their needs.

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Consumer companies around the world are in limbo. They are groping in the dark due to a lot of variables in the current situation.

Many are non-essential businesses, others rely on logistics and physical goods to be delivered. Many businesses are forced to close by the government, due to the social distancing norms, even though the consumers need them.

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IDEAS

Anthropological research shows how physical proximity increases interactions. The office is an important factor in communicating the necessary cues of leadership, collaboration, and communication.

Although employees might move back to the physical space of the office again, boundaries are changing.

While remote work has a lot of benefits like reduced commute, time efficiency and safety, many conclude that the richness of in-person interaction is irreplaceable, and many studies do seem to confirm that people in the office just get more done.

Face-to-face interactions help employees communicate and bond, making them think, investigate, synthesize, write, plan, organize and brainstorm together, something the best of technology finds hard to match with people in remote locations in their pyjamas.

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