April 20, 2020
What will your office look like a year from now? It’s a bit of a “Jetson’s” scenario at the moment, with a lot of speculation and creative twists outlining the future of our office spaces.
As you think about your own space and how it will adapt in the coming months, consider these emerging trends and how they will likely impact your work environment.
Keep in mind that there’s a myriad of reactions that you’ll see from your team members as you work through this. Some people will be extremely cautious and looking for intense measures while others will be ready to go back to the way things were, handshakes, hugs and all.
The bulleted lists below are changes we’re hearing from clients and our community. Take them for what you will. Only you know what’s best and most practical for your space.
One commercial real estate firm in the Netherlands introduced a rapidly growing vision of the future with its “6 Feet Office” model. In recent weeks the company rearranged their own office to maintain six feet of distance between each employee throughout the workday and reduce the possibility of lingering pathogens on surfaces.
They also instituted a preliminary concept for how company employees can abide by and uphold the space mandate to keep themselves and their colleagues safe with six key elements.
The concept itself is being tested in office spaces in China to help the country get its workforce back in action. So far, the system has allowed thousands of companies to safely reopen and resume office hours for their employees. However, the concept is in its preliminary stages, and still being tested for effectiveness.
Watch the video to learn more about The 6 Feet Office
One overlooked element to commercial office space (until now) is HVAC quality. Typically the air that is circulated through an office is recycled, reintroducing pathogens in the air over a prolonged period of time. The future may look like higher quality, more robust air filtration, and new policies for landlords to uphold.
“Improved air filtration is probably the single most important lesson learned from China,” says Despina Katsikakis, head of Occupier Business Performance at real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield.
He also noted one reason that the labor force has returned to work so quickly as we’re seeing in China is that office buildings have been installing high-end air filtration systems for several years now, and the country even introduced its own indoor air certification standard, in response to rising pollution.
In 1990, sociologist Joan Acker observed that organizations “assume a disembodied and universal worker.”
We’re in hyperdrive now to recognize how unrealistic that view really is with the majority of American families having two working adults in their household and plenty of responsibilities to look after while they are home.
Maybe the greatest test of all in the last four to six weeks for most businesses is determining their team members will stay engaged and be equally – if not more – productive in a remote environment with their children, spouses, and potentially sick family members at home with them throughout the workday. For families, it’s revealed an on-going challenge to keep work and life separate or well-managed with strict schedules and parent’s hiding in their closets to get through meetings without interruption.
Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and the TV show Shark Tank, stated that he sees our economy needing to be more compassionate to workers as the flow between home and work becomes more integrated than it ever has been.
Individual health and emotional wellbeing are also existing trends we’ve seen in recent years as millennials take over the workforce. While their interest comes from a more positive, holistic wellness approach to life, the change may happen more quickly due to the massive negative effects of illness and reactions to the pandemic have had on the economy to-date.
It’s been said a lot lately that this virus shoved us years into the future with our adaptation to a more virtual world. Because it became a necessity, it will more than likely become our normal way of operating.
Web conferencing platform Zoom alone added 2.22 million monthly active users so far in 2020, while in 2019 it added 1.99 million. And daily meeting participants on the platform surged from 10 million in December to 200 million in March.
The ease of transition from in-office to virtual will require better low voltage set-up in-office for teams to join meetings and participate in the room and online as well as better security protocols to protect accounts and data transferred online.
(Check out our complete list of platforms that are giving their services for free right now to make remote work easier – go to the list.)
As our current reality seems to shift daily now, platforms like Zoom are pressed to work quickly and offer better, more reliable, safer service than they did two months ago as hackers also innovate their approach to breaking systems. This speed of innovation and emphasis on connectivity will be pivotal to the changes we will see in the near future.
While the unknown still bears a heavyweight on the future and we adapt to changes in work-life daily, we’ll want to be ready to adapt to work-life change to come to best serve our businesses and our people.