Did COVID-19 really kill the need for a physical office?

Did COVID-19 really kill the need for a physical office?

With recent studies showing that there is a large percentage of people who would choose to go back to the office rather than working at home, it seems that the ‘three Cs’ ever – colleagues, culture and collaboration – are still as important as ever.

We have read and discussed more times than we can count over the last 6 months that the pandemic has all but killed the need for the physical office. However, we beg to differ. In fact, the sentiment from our contacts and clients is that, not only is an office needed, but the shift towards all teams working remotely from home will actually be beneficial for office-based workers moving forward.

Mandatory remote working has forced some companies out of their traditional ways.
Despite the promise of ‘flexible’ work arrangements when trying to attract staff, the reality for some businesses is that it can be ‘all talk and no trousers’. However, according to a 2019 Glassdoor multi-country survey, 75% of employees pay close attention to a company’s culture before applying for a job. And 56% went further to say that culture is more important than salary.

Many business leaders were still in the camp of ‘if staff are working remotely and therefore unseen, they will not be productive or work efficiently’. As it happens, the world kept turning and businesses continued to operate and even, thrive. Although the workplace is still essential for building culture and connections, the forced transition to working from home has been a great exercise for many organisations in testing their business resilience and flexible culture.

Many feel that the remote working situation has led to more positive human relationships between teams and their managers after they have gained an insight into the personal challenges, family life and juggling work and home.

Build a safe and healthy workplace and they will come…..
Moving forward, no one knows whether teams will ever return to a full-time office situation, but it is clear that people do miss the social interactions and the routine that the office brings, and are likely to choose to return to work as long as they feel safe to do so. This has led to landlords and Managers addressing the need for COVID-19 safe building practices such as ‘non-touch’ lifts, motion-sensor doors, designated workstations and staggered break times among other key things.

By recognising the need for different setting and spaces for different kinds of tasks, it has prompted many businesses to rethink their office space planning to adhere to safe space-restrictions as well as accommodating areas concentrated work area as well as collaborative teamwork settings. Integrated technology solutions will be key moving ahead both to connect with clients as well as teammates working remotely or other offices when travelling is difficult.

Scott Birnbaum, a vice president of global tech giant Samsung said that “The most creative ideas aren’t going to come while sitting in front of your monitor,” and that the new building “is really designed to spark not just collaboration but that innovation you see when people collide.”

An example of re-engineering space for post COVID-19 working
In other parts of the world, quick turnaround office space planning and flow changes have been implemented in order to get people back to work. The most evident change will be in occupational density. Global real estate company Cushman & Wakefield has implemented what they call the ‘six feet office’ in their Netherlands HQ. This has led to them utilising clear guidelines on foot traffic flow around the office using arrows on the floor as well as every desk having a circle of six foot around it to boost awareness for approaching colleagues. In addition to these measures, staff are encouraged to be responsible for clearing and cleaning their workspace at the end of each day to ensure that hot-desking and flexible settings are achievable. Most importantly, improvements to air-filtration to provide fresh air and circulated new air have been carried out.

“We started the 6 Feet Office Project with the ambition to get the world safer and back at work sooner. We believe that a safe and healthy workplace is at the centre of what’s next in business”
Jeroen Lokerse – Head of The Netherlands, Cushman & Wakefield.

Why going to the office is better for your health
Whether you may think it or not, going to the office is better for your health. Not only does it make you get out and about to get to work, but when working in the office, it is likely that throughout the day, you vary your position and location, and even these small movements have health benefits. At the office, you are likely to have regular short breaks; whether it be a coffee break in a breakout space with a colleague, or a walk at lunchtime. The reality is that when working from home, people tend to work longer hours and without movement or breaks and are likely to be sitting on domestic chairs rather than ergonomic office furniture.

In conclusion, we believe that businesses will always need the office; the space just may be used differently than prior to COVID-19.

To speak to our team about your office upgrades and planning requirements, please get in touch with Tim Russell – 0435 581 161