Office spaces with the right amenities are making a post-Covid resurgence
Pre-pandemic, roughly one in five employees were already working from home. Now, more than 71 percent of the American workforce is teleworking, according to a study from the Pew Research Center.
“[Covid] forced companies to figure out a work from home (WFH) strategy immediately,” says Lora Munson, EVP for tenant representation services at Colliers. As we pass the one-year mark of quarantined life, hope is on the horizon with the vaccine rollout that life may return to a “new normal.”
“As a result, companies are now figuring out that WFH is here to stay. It’s not going away and most employees would strongly prefer a hybrid model of work,” says Munson.
Knowing that up to 70 percent of employees want to work from home at least one day a week permanently, companies, executives, and real estate agents alike are now tasked with redefining the physical workspace. Munson explains that the purpose of the office has changed. Physical locations are still needed for some companies, but defining the purpose of the space will be crucial moving forward.
By defining the “purpose of place,” you can structure and design a physical location that has meaning and will make your employees eager to return to the office. It can also align with your company’s culture and values. The office must become “a destination,” says Kate North, VP of workplace advisory and occupier services at Colliers.
“Complex collaboration is tricky on Zoom and you can only get so far,” she says. “People miss spontaneous aspects like bumping into someone, building relationships, and maintaining rapport. We are uniquely human beings seeking out human experiences.”
But when it comes to making the office a destination, soda machines, free snacks, and ping-pong tables aren’t enough anymore. Instead, well-thought-out amenities that make employees feel healthy, good, and safe are going to be necessary in getting people back together in the office.
The workspace of the future
Because a hybrid work model is here to stay, North and Munson think that most companies will maintain a hybrid work-from-home model, with some days in the office and some at home. To accommodate this, the building must include multi-use spaces where employees can work on individual projects as well as collaborate with their team members.
Socializing is one of the primary reasons people want to return to the office, so building managers must keep this in mind by creating areas like lounge areas, picnic tables, or fire pits that will naturally entice people to gather and chat organically. “A lot of studies are showing that if people want to do individual work, they prefer working at home,” says Munson. “Then, they prefer going into work to collaborate and work on projects where the social interaction itself furthers the work they need to do.”
Speaking of seating areas for collaborating, the experts at Colliers think that the days of “assigned” side-by-side desks are gone. Instead, teams will be assigned areas or “neighborhoods” to sit, but not a specific desk anymore. For example, the marketing department might have “Group A” in the office on Mondays and Wednesdays and “Group B” in the office Tuesdays and Thursdays. When in the office, employees will have the opportunity to pick a spot for the day.
Important too, says North, is the element of biophilic design― the concept where items, objects, and structures in the building are meant to increase your connection to nature. You’ll see lots of plants, earth tones, and wooden objects to make the space a nice, natural environment. This design concept will play an important role in making the office a home away from home.
“We are envisioning a work environment that feels healthy, safe, and inspiring,” says North. Moving forward, real estate needs to “create the vibe for what people are missing at home so the office is a destination.”
For better or worse, the pandemic has changed the world. Working from home will be commonplace and a hybrid work schedule will evolve and change the way Americans see and relate to their careers. To lure employees back to the office, it’s essential to create an environment and physical space that emphasizes people, connectedness, and our innate need for socialization with others.
Office spaces with the right amenities are making a post-Covid resurgence was originally published in the 2021 issue of The Advisor