The office world is changing before our very eyes. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that suddenly we are rethinking when and how we are using our office spaces, incorporating technology, and accommodating a rise in flexible and remote working.
The lockdown 1.0 – as it is now becoming known – saw swathes of the population creating home offices as they were forbidden to leave the house. And some people liked it. In fact, more than some people. Since the lockdown, we have now seen more and more people who have embraced working from home and are now keen to incorporate it into their ‘normal,’ post-lockdown working week.
This doesn’t, however, mean ditching the office for good – conversely, we have found here at Boxpod, that many have learnt that at times, there is no substitute for being in the office, productively and socially.
It seems that the future is a mixture of the two. Workplaces are set to become more flexible, allowing for employees to work from home a proportion of their time, and come into the office for another. This isn’t, of course, only due to the coronavirus pandemic, but it has certainly played its part in speeding up the process.
We will likely be seeing employees using the office for collaborative and creative needs, making the most of the interactions between staff members, whilst being able to work remotely when they need time on their own. This means that we are likely to see changes in the future in office design to be an optimal environment for collaboration and human interaction.
Ensuring that your office environment is conducive to office culture and the way that employees behave is very important, and this can be done partly through the design of the office.
Before any specific design features of the office are discussed, it is important to get some of the basic design features right. These include ensuring that there is a good amount of natural light in the office as this is good for productivity, mood, motivation, and the general health of employees.
In the post-COVID world of work, it is also vital that there are good ventilation and airflow. This is also important for productivity and ensuring that illnesses such as viruses aren’t spread quickly amongst the workforce. Adequate space for employees to comfortably fit in the office is also essential.
Office Space and Layout
The layout and amount of space that is created are fundamental both in encouraging collaboration, but also to ensure that the commercial property is COVID safe. The logical answer might sound like creating a massive, open-plan office whilst spacing people out, but this actually, isn’t conducive to collaboration.
Although spacious areas are important – especially post-COVID – it is important to separate the space to include smaller areas where people can get together to collaborate, without distractions, and are able to communicate effectively.
Some ideas for this could include using partitions or organising furniture to create separate areas if there is no structural way to separate different areas. Informal break-out spaces are perfect for collaboration or brainstorming, especially for creative purposes.
There may also be a need for a more private area where employees can discuss sensitive subjects, away from prying ears.
There should be clear divisions between different spaces so that it is obvious to employees what the space has been designed for. This can help with encouraging them to work collaboratively in a space that is designed for this. There are several techniques that can be used to separate different areas – using different colour schemes, different furniture, painting lines on the floor, or screens that can be moved to create different spaces according to what is required, for example.
Using glass or Perspex screens to separate the areas in an office is a great idea as they still allow natural light to enter the room whilst segregating areas.
It is also worth considering having spaces such as cafes and kitchens or relaxation areas where employees can spend some downtime, socialising with colleagues, and help to build bonds and teamwork.
Another problem with having a completely open-plan office, especially when it is being used for collaborative work, is that noise can carry easily. This can be detrimental not only to those who aren’t involved in the conversations that are being held but also to limit creativity and privacy.
A room where those who are talking, are talking quietly can soon mount up into a very noisy and disruptive atmosphere.
These issues can be overcome with a combination of several techniques, for example:
- The use of acoustic room dividers and screens – such as the glass ones mentioned above
- Using noise cancelling furniture – such as soft surfaces, sound-absorbing materials on the walls, and carpets on the floors
- Reducing the number of hard surfaces that are present within the space
Make it Easy
If you are looking for someone to behave in a certain way, it is important to make the environment in which they are, conducive to that behaviour. In this instance, therefore, it is important that the space is designed to be easy to work in, in a collaborative manner.
This not only refers to the layout, the provision of separate spaces for this work, and consciousness about noise but also in some other basic features.
It is important, for example, that these spaces are the right size for employees to work collaboratively, but with the adequate social distancing that is required. Every space will need to have power, for example, decent Wi-Fi, and be conveniently placed for those who will be looking to together.
Some workplaces like to add huge whiteboards or apply wipeable paint to the walls, or projectors to ease the collaboration process.
As the working world evolves, commercial property is also evolving, changing along with the needs of businesses to accommodate more flexibility regarding how they work. It is likely that we will be seeing office spaces being used more creatively, and to enable collaborative working, as well as the social aspect, and it is important that commercial property of the future allows businesses to incorporate these aspects.