Post-pandemic planning – what the business office landscape looks like after lockdown
Though it may seem impossible right now, the coronavirus threat will eventually settle back into the folds of history. However, its aftereffects will live on, transforming the way humans interact and do business with one another. Massive pandemic-inspired changes are already sweeping through the office landscape. If you’re looking to get ahead of the game, here’s what you need to prepare for:
Though working from home was introduced as a stop-gap measure, it has become the new norm for many people and will likely continue this way. Cramming hundreds of employees into a single floor of a building filled with thousands of other workers was once par for the course. Yet in a post-pandemic world, navigating such an environment sounds like the stuff of nightmares.
Additionally, as the ever-dependable law of unintended consequences would have it, legions of businesses have discovered the benefits of a well-managed remote or flex-working model. Innumerable organisations that at some point in the murky pre-Corona past may have looked askance at working from home have unwittingly discovered that it can, in fact, lead to a rise in productivity. No fewer than 74% of businesses now claim that they intend to incorporate some level of remote working in a post-Corona world.
Of course, office spaces will not become relics of the past. What they will do is transform. Flexible workspaces will become the new backbone of corporate life, with serviced offices providing businesses with the flexibility and support they’ll crave in the way of shorter contracts, receptionist services, and the ability to upgrade or downgrade office space at any time.
With the availability of high-class virtual office solutions, many workers will be able to continue operating entirely from home. Those whose work does require some level of on-site attendance will likely only venture into the central office when these tasks arise.
In many offices, we will likely see a cap on the number of people who can be in the building at any given time. To make this work, staggered start, finish, and break times will need to be rolled out. This will have the welcome side-effect of balancing out rush-hour traffic, allowing people to commute in a safer and more timely manner.
When an immediate threat dies down, it can be easy to slip back into old habits. However, as we saw in Vietnam, even the slightest lapse in vigilance can lead to a new wave of infections. As such, businesses will need to set their new measures in stone, enforcing hygiene, safety, and social distancing rules.
You can expect to see hygiene stations at entrances and exits and on every desk in your office. Workstations will no longer be crammed together, and you may have to get used to conversing with colleagues through plexiglass screens. Desk visits and one-on-one meetings will likely be relegated to phone calls or video chats, and even team meetings may be conducted entirely online.
Though many people are assuming that the digital world offers all the answers to our social distancing needs, we can also find a spark of hope in nature. We can’t say for sure at this stage, but experts are suggesting that your risk of catching the coronavirus is reduced when outdoors. This doesn’t mean you should do away with social distancing and hygiene measures. However, it does mean that outdoor meetings may become a part of the new norm.
With people looking to boost their general health and support their immune systems, outdoor meetings and office spaces with access to natural light, fresh air, and plant life may be the way of the future. Known as Biophilic Office Design, this trend was already emerging and is only set to grow more popular in the post-pandemic world.
Though all that exposure to nature sounds lovely, it will likely come hand-in-hand with far blander office designs. Since hygiene will have to be prioritized over aesthetics, the offices of the future may look a lot like hospitals. Indeed, those who create hospital interiors are already bringing a healthcare ethos into their latest office designs.
Brent Capron, a New York-based interior design director, told the BBC that offices should now be designed using materials capable of withstanding heavy cleaning products. This means, sadly, that natural surfaces like wood will be replaced by stone and laminates. Even the carpeting will get an overhaul. Solution-dyed products that have a moisture-barrier backing will be necessary as they’re able to hold up against regular heavy cleaning.
Though we are stepping into a brave new world, it doesn’t have to be a dystopia. If you’re looking for a flexible, safe, and hygienic way to keep your business thriving, the APSO team is here to help.