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The new office? There's no one size fits all...
25 May 2020
Who would have thought we would be sitting here 2nd quarter of 2020 thinking “is it my turn to go to the office today or this week?” or trying to trade days in the office with my colleagues as you don’t want to work from home anymore. Not going to use any clichés to describe this. It is just plain weird.
Back in the office once we hit level 3, there were only a handful of us here. Plenty of room, no traffic, plenty of car parking. I was feeling a bit sorry for my colleagues still working from home (kids bouncing off the ceiling) but some of them were happy with that too. I was personally over Zoom, Teams and Skype and looking at people's bedrooms as a backdrop to the top of their heads or their chins. When you start seeing the ceiling as a backdrop its time to drop out of the call... Oops, bad internet connection.
Now we are in Level 2 and looking like being here for a while, its really time to start thinking about our working arrangements.
This leads me to my thoughts for the day - we have seen many articles telling us the office is dead. Working from home is it, digital communication via Teams, Zoom, Hangouts, etc, etc is the way forward. Sorry no! This is part of the mix, but it ignores many facts. One being that organisations are made up of people and people are social beings and therefore need to meet, talk, socialise, gossip and generally hangout together, not just for leisure but also as part of their working day. The office is not dead, but it will be different.
The big question is “what will office workers come back to?” This is the question that many businesses are grappling with and trying to work out. My key point is, there is no one size fits all. So next time you read an article from a real estate professional, architect, furniture supplier pushing a certain idea, ask yourself what is in it for them? Then put those ideas in the pot with all the other ideas, mix it up and take out what works for you.
The answer to the big question above is that every business and the individuals within have different needs. The office of now and tomorrow must provide for these needs to ensure that the business can do what the business needs to do to both survive these times, but also to operate effectively and grow in the future. How can these needs be satisfied?
· Working from home. With the right set up that meets comfort and lighting and ergonomics! Sitting on the couch or table at the wrong height is not sustainable (except for chiropractors)
· Drop in spaces in the office for home workers. A place that allows home workers to be connected to the rest of the business.
· Open plan areas for in the office workers. Not open plan as we know it at 8m2 per person! People need space to allow them to work and think and breath. Jamming people into buildings on smaller and smaller desks to save money on real estate is not the way forward and should never have been allowed.
· Robust remote meeting technology. Its ok to have everyone on a Zoom call remotely but when you have 6 people in one room and a Zoom meeting with 6 other people in their bedrooms, it’s not a match made in heaven. The correct headsets, microphones and equipment are essential.
· Internal partitioned offices (just like the old days, but better) - while this does not work for everyone, there are some people who are happier and more productive working in an enclosed office. If this increases productivity through more concentrated time and fewer disruptions and the value of the increase in productivity versus the cost of the fit out and the real estate makes sense.... it’s a no brainer. Within a business, take this a step further and put 4, 6 or 8 people into an enclosed partitioned office with good acoustics, lighting and air conditioning with suitable distancing, clear guidelines about disruptions i.e. phone use etc, and the economic calculation for this enclosed productive space changes dramatically.
CBD and business areas will flourish again and the offices within them will too. It’s the way we use offices and CBD space that will change. Starting with fewer people with more space around them, satellite offices, drop in spaces with technology and co working/shared spaces.
Who would have thought 2020 would bring about so much change? But, we do have an opportunity to reset how we work and get the work/life/home/office/commute balance that we have been striving for.
If you’re not sure how to move your office forward, want to sublet space, need more robust technology or require new furniture/desks/meeting room layouts please get in touch for a chat.
An article by David Gunn, STACK Director