29th Apr 2020

How Covid-19 has changed the future of workplace design forever

The global pandemic has changed workplace design forever. It’s informed us of what’s inherently important to our people, and we can use this to create spaces to support them in new ways of working. So what will your future office be like?

Covid-19 has created a huge shift in the way people are working now, which can’t possibly be forgotten when things eventually return to normal. Whatever that ends up looking like.

There are so many things that this pandemic has taught us about what’s important at work. Communication, collaboration, culture – to name a few! But most of all it’s highlighted to us that the success of our businesses comes down to ensuring our people are healthy and happy.

This is where workplace design comes in.

The office of the future will be different now we really know what’s most important. It has to. And this presents a huge opportunity for employers everywhere to do things better than they were before.

The future workplace will be more agile

Office workers around the globe are working in new and increasingly agile ways. Not out of choice, but out of necessity.

Thanks to these forced innovations, many businesses that have always operated in certain ways will come out of this with a whole new perspective. We’re certain this will be reflected in workplace designs of the future, because a lot of teams have discovered better ways of doing things.

Short term

At first, workplace layouts will be tweaked because of the inevitable social distancing measures that’ll be in place. Health and safety will be paramount. Spaces with high density desk layouts won’t be able to be occupied at the same levels, so processes like rotas could be introduced where safe to do so.

Quick fixes like ‘sneeze screens’ around desks won’t address the need to maintain good hygiene in common areas. So new cleaning processes and hygiene standards will need implementing and communicating to space users.

Long term

Longer-term, we think this will lead to spaces being more agile by design. As well as design and systems upgrades, cultural change will need to happen for agile working to be successful.

Management and their staff will need to understand how to set and achieve their objectives in a new landscape. And the process of understanding what needs to happen in future for office designs to help people do this will be an evolutionary one.

Here are some agile workplace design ideas that we think will hit the mainstream:

  • Less fixed desks in favour of flexible spaces that people can use for a variety of tasks
  • Increased square footage devoted to collaboration, whether that be formal meeting rooms or relaxed seating areas
  • Embracing new technologies to allow greater flexibility and increase efficiencies in the way people work

Technology in workplaces of the future

Every company’s ability to create agile office designs will be largely dependent on technology.

If there’s one thing this pandemic has definitely taught us, it’s that technology is absolutely essential in helping businesses run smoothly. It opens up other channels for communication, collaboration and knowledge-sharing and allows more flexible ways of working.

Short term

As workplaces slowly begin to open and small numbers of people return to the workplace, the greatest challenge will be navigating a mix of staff working from home and in the office.

Employers will need to ensure that all staff are equipped with the tech they need to be productive wherever they’re working from.

Long term

Working remotely will undoubtedly have given organisations a greater understanding of this. But t’s also highlighted how tech can prop up or even improve processes in the office too.

So how will technology affect our future workplaces?

  • To aid an inevitable increase in remote collaboration, video conferencing software like StarLeaf and intuitive AV hardware like CleverTouch are likely to be more common.
  • We’ll see meeting rooms and collaboration spaces equipped with tech for a range of activities. The use of acoustic products and ergonomic furniture will increase to facilitate a more flexible use of space.
  • Tech will be embraced for more operational purposes too. For instance, meeting room booking systems like Evoko will be installed to help companies manage meeting spaces more efficiently (and remotely!).

Wellbeing will be higher up the agenda

Wellbeing was already on the agenda before the pandemic but we think it’ll be prioritised by a lot of employers.

Short term

Safety and wellbeing are intrinsically linked, or as Steelcase puts it, “Wellbeing happens when there is an intersection between our physical, cognitive and emotional health — safety is foundational to all three.” So employers will first have to create the sense of safety in the office.

The move to continued safety and wellbeing will then be top of the agenda to support peoples’ own emotional confidence going forward.

Long term

Besides health and safety as a priority, this strange time has allowed us all to reflect on what fuels our wellbeing and the things we enjoy or dislike about our current working environments. The morning coffee chat in the kitchen may not have felt like much before, but we’re now realising how much of a wellbeing-booster it was!

Workplaces that don’t currently facilitate these ‘little wins’ will need to adapt if they’re to provide their people with spaces that work for them, not against them.

Wellbeing will be reflected in future workplace designs through:

  • Areas designed for contemplation and relaxation to help with mental fatigue or stress. This could involve dimmable lighting, soundproofing, calming colours and comfy furniture.
  • Greater appreciation for nature and the benefits to mental and physical health will see more plants and greenery being installed in office spaces.
  • Increased workplace health promotion and more communications from employers about wellbeing initiatives that their staff can get involved in.

If you’re interested in learning more, read our blog on the WELL Building Standard for tips on how to create a wellbeing-first workplace.

What will this mean for landlords and property agents?

Changes in design preferences will lead to more discerning business tenants, as employers look for buildings that are equipped to support flexible working as well as wellbeing.

This means landlords and property agents will need to be increasingly aware of tenants’ changing priorities from Category A fit out stage. Before they’ve even signed the lease, employers will be asking wellbeing-related questions about the space.

Here are a few examples of what we think landlords should be considering in greater detail:

  • The materials chosen for the category A fit out e.g. materials that minimise indoor air pollution
  • How to maximise sources of natural light in the building
  • Sufficient electrical points for an increase in tech requirements in meeting or break out spaces

Looking to the future of the office

If not already, we’re all going to be changed in our views on how workplaces should meet our needs. Employers that try to shoehorn their people back into previous ways of working are going to struggle because the world is already too different to ignore.

At Blueprint we’re well-versed in helping our clients design and build agile workspaces equipped with tech that prioritise wellbeing. If your space has the potential to be more than it currently is, get in touch for a chat with one of our workplace design consultants.

Author:

Rob Day

Chairman & Founder