Offices aren’t dead, but they will need to transform

The impact of the pandemic has caused much debate about the future of the office. Despite the initial buzz around working from home, as the months draw on it’s clear that for most office workers a blend of office-based and remote working is the most desirable outcome. Although offices aren’t dead, most companies are likely to offer more remote working options and flexibility than they did pre-pandemic. Therefore, offices will need to be better equipped to become a destination of choice and focus on being centred around collaboration and teamwork.

Magnus Meyer, Managing Director WSP Nordics & Continental Europe, said: “This crisis is probably going to accelerate the need for modern, flexible office space with lots of services. The buildings that suffer will be the older ones that tenants just don’t want any more. They’re just the wrong product.” Landlords will need to enrich their spaces with amenities, services, technology and sustainability solutions to set themselves apart from the competition. Ultimately, the office will need to be optimised to allow people to be productive and engaged and strike the right balance in its design to facilitate collaboration and connection while having enough space for people to be at a safe distance from each other. The office will need to provide some of the aspects that home-working can’t offer, whilst also bringing in some of the benefits that home working provides, such as creating a more relaxed environment with soft furnishings and decor. In WSP’s article about the office as a destination of choice, they discuss the office will become an appointment destination: “But how do we know that the people we want to see will even be in the office that day? We will need to plan our visits more carefully to get the greatest value from them – reinforcing the idea of the office as an appointment destination.” Smart technologies will be key to the success of this new way of work. People can check their workplace experience app to see who will be in on a given day, and plan their work week around that.

One of the key considerations for landlords is to identify what they can implement to set them apart from the crowd and to make it a destination where tenants want to go. Landlords will need to put safety first, to build confidence in their tenants to return to the workplace. The future workplace is no longer one office with four walls. Smart technologies will be key to the future workplace, facilitating communication, connection and cohesion among distributed workforces. Office space post-Covid will need to become a location for collaboration and connection and be carefully designed to allow for space and comfortability. With flexible and distributed work patterns the new normal, offices will need to adopt trends in the hotelisation of office space to create amenity and service-rich environments that drive a sense of  ‘fear of missing out’ if fellow employees aren’t in when their peers are. The office needs to become a culture hub and it needs to offer tenants and their employees a choice away from their home working environments.

Workplace technology will facilitate a shift to distributed working. Arup tapped into this trend and proposed that employers may implement “a flexible toolkit of workplace offerings” which would allow employees to understand the facilities at their disposal, giving them the choice on when and where they work. The report continued to explain how technology such as a workplace experience app could be utilised to create a cohesive workplace environment: “One way of making this possible is the concept of ‘digital concierges’. The digital concierge is the interconnectivity of clusters of spaces spread over a portfolio of assets, which are governed and accessed through apps or other interactive platforms. This helps make an otherwise discrete group of spaces and environments part of a cohesive whole.”

The future workplace is hybrid, and the future office needs to become an experience. To discover more about upgrading your workplace experience for hybrid working click here or to download our latest e-guide on post-pandemic commercial real estate click here.

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