The modern office space is here to stay for a while. But why is that and how will it benefit businesses? Find out more by reading on.
COVID as a disease is something that we will continue to have to live with, and it’s likely that many of the adaptations we’ve made as a society to deal with the pandemic are here to stay, at least for a while.
These include the changes we’ve made to the workplace, the lessons we’ve learned, and the trends we’ve seen emerge. Yet the virus alone isn’t responsible for all the trends and changes in the modern workplace. Just a few of the factors that account for many of the trends in the modern office space today include:
- Global warming and the cost of the commute.
- Sustainability in furnishings, energy efficiency, and time efficiency.
- Realizing the loss of boundaries between work and life, both pre- and post-COVID.
- Addressing the importance of self-fulfillment and individualism in the workspace.
- Taking advantage of improvements in telecommunications and cloud-based workspaces.
- And much more.
We’ve flown past the age of individual offices, past the age of cubicles, and have been approaching the end of the open office for some time. What’s next? In truth, it’s unlikely that we will see any single concept take the lead in redefining the modern office space for some time. What we are more likely to see is a number of different approaches being used across industries and spaces. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular trends.
The Growth of Coworking
Coworking spaces have been around for decades, but they started taking off at a much faster pace in the age of online entrepreneurialism and the digital nomad trend.
By 2015, it was clear that the growth in the coworking industry was no fluke, with startups, medium-sized enterprises, and Fortune 500 companies alike making use of various coworking spaces throughout the world to:
- Cut down on the overhead of furnishing a new office.
- Avoid the costs and financial commitment of a long-term lease, especially for startups struggling to break.
- Allow businesses to scale rapidly while providing the amenities and perks of a high-class office space and a professional address, at a fraction of the price.
COVID initially put a hamper on coworking spaces, as people were encouraged to work from home and avoid contact, let alone meet up in offices that were designed to include a revolving door.
But in the advent of new hygiene concepts, better sanitation practices, improved airflow, redesigned spaces, private rooms, and other important COVID-conscious practices, coworking spaces recovered and continued to grow as businesses began their tentative return to working in physical spaces.
A Blend of Remote and Office Work
Speaking of working from home, remote work is likely here to stay – more so than it already was before 2019. There has always been a general apprehension among office managers and executives surrounding the idea of letting employees work from home or work from anywhere, but when remote work was forced onto people under extremely precarious circumstances, many companies saw an uptick in productivity.
The cost was employee morale, workplace identity, social interaction, and work-life balance. But rather than abandon the idea wholesale, many recognize that if implemented correctly – and made voluntary, rather than mandatory – remote work could be a perfectly complementary arrangement to office work, either in cases where employees opt to work from home some days of the week, or cases where some workers work from a coworking space or café while others come to HQ.
Fewer Social Interactions
Casual social interaction was and continues to be an important element of workplace culture. It’s about so much more than just team building and company events. It’s the little moments, the watercooler moments, the chats between projects, and pre-meeting conversations, that really reflect on what it’s like to work at any given company.
Many of these interactions have died out as a result of a jump to digital-only. Sure, there are watercooler Slacks and a few casual conversations, but it isn’t really the same thing.
While it’s unlikely that things will return to normal at a snap of the finger, some might argue that we will be seeing fewer, but more meaningful social interactions in the workplace now.
Privacy and Personalized Spaces
You could call it the return to the cubicle, but that’s too simplistic. New workspaces are a hybrid model where individuals are given the choice between working alone in a concentrated space, working alongside others in an open area, or brainstorming as a pair or team in a private meeting room. Many coworking spaces are structured this way, giving people different options depending on the projects or tasks at hand. While we might see a return to individualized offices in some spaces, and cubicles in others, space and privacy will become more important factors.
This might include individualized access to charging ports, bring your own water, being served coffee vs. making your own from the machine, and other ways to reduce physical contact between people.
Revisiting the Common Area
Whether you call it the lounge, the common area, or the touchdown space, most corporate settings feature some sort of centralized space where employees hang out together, where clients are invited to take a moment to wait after their reception, and where visitors can be received at the beginning of an office tour.
These are spaces that are built to be comforting and welcoming, relaxing, and provide a glimpse at the inner workings of the office without being too distracting.
But while we live in the shadow of a pandemic, these spaces may continue to change in ways to improve safety and security, without becoming too cold and unbecoming.
Common spaces are social spaces, but with social distancing and easy cleaning in mind (even after COVID), we may see these spaces change in terms of providing more space between seating arrangements, easily cleanable materials and furniture, and individual coffee tables per seating arrangement rather than fewer, larger tables, to discourage large groups from gathering around a single part of the room.
Rent a Modern Office Space
As it stands, COVID is something we will be living with for the time being. As treatments improve and vaccines become more readily available, cases will hopefully continue to dwindle, and eventually, the virus will fall into the background as most outbreaks do.
But it’s also undoubtedly going to remain an influence for years to come, and its effects will be felt for the rest of this generation. It may take more time for some of the changes triggered by COVID to truly materialize in the workspace.
We may not be working from within ultra-sanitized isolation pods anytime soon (we hope), but for the time being, COVID’s impact on spacing and seating, sanitization, air quality, and a greater emphasis on remote work and improved digitalization will likely be here to stay.