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How Will Workplaces Transform in a Post-Pandemic World?

While most people are currently working from home, it is highly likely that offices and other workspaces will return in some shape or form once the pandemic subsides. Some do not have proper working environments while others miss face-to-face interaction among colleagues and collaboration opportunities that the office can offer.

The COVID-19 pandemic has overturned almost every aspect of work, most importantly, employees’ needs in the spaces where they work.  A completely remote workforce can be improbable given the intangible benefits of social connection and collaboration that in-person working provides. Nevertheless, it is important for businesses to create optimal conditions for employees to work remotely as well as in the office. Companies will need to consider new strategies and transform the workplace to adapt to the workforce’s changing needs.

First Things First: Health and Well-being

Employers are always bound to comply with workplace health and safety regulations. The health and safety of employees must be prioritized by employers as they return to the office. COVID-19 has raised everyone’s awareness about their surroundings and other potential breeding grounds for communicable viruses or diseases and this has sent businesses scrambling to redesign their offices to meet new health requirements and respond to a workforce that has a heightened concern for health and well-being. A healthy paranoia, so to speak, on personal health and wellness is to be expected.

As an employer, communicating that these health precautions are in place can reassure employees that their return to work will be safe. However, it is not enough to tell your employees that it is safe to go back to the office. As an employer, you have to show that the workplace has not only been redesigned to confront the health crisis, but that these changes have been restructured around the type of work their employees do on a daily basis.

Air quality, ventilation, and temperature regulation could provide ways forward and are important factors to start on. For instance, airports, leisure facilities, and hospitals across the globe have come up with smart building solutions to better detect infections and reduce transmission. With emerging technologies just around the corner, we can surely think of simple ways to start with and long-term plans to set definite goals for workplaces and employees after the pandemic.

Reimagining the Future of Workspaces

Many of us definitely miss the simple joy of coffee with our colleagues in the pantry. Brainstorming in the lounge and sketching out ideas on the whiteboard are just some of the few things that cannot be done by remote teams. What separates a physical office from a remote work set-up is the collective energy of a space filled with enthusiastic people united in a common purpose.

It goes without saying that remote work is a success for most businesses, especially if they are fully capable and they have the means to provide their employees with the tools they need.  But many are struggling with solving complex problems and creating new ideas without the intrinsic human experience of working together, not to mention in office spaces designed specifically to foster creativity and innovation that companies need to grow and be productive.

Social connections in the office build trust that can last for so long among colleagues. After many months of working apart, remote employees note that the main reason they want to go back to the office is for them to collaborate and socialize in ways that are not possible remotely. Consequently, efforts to create a wide variety of spaces and office designs that support these work modes should be ramped up to develop a working atmosphere conducive to good social interactions and active collaboration.

Employees will continue to be drawn to comfortable workspaces that support their well-being and allow them to have face-to-face conversations. And so employers and decision-makers must pivot towards encouraging safety protocols and physical distancing measures not only to boost productivity, but also to promote a work environment where your employees can feel safe. (Read: How ARCH Offices Reinvented their Spaces Amid Covid-19).

Short-term Solutions

 

1. Carry out office-wide cleaning protocols

Employees will want to know what kind of safety protocols employers are putting into place to avoid the spread of the virus. Businesses must implement cleaning and sanitizing guidelines for all workstations, facilities, conference rooms, lounges, and lunchrooms at regular intervals throughout the day. The cleanliness of shared workstations and private desks must be given priority so the employees can concentrate on their work. Effective safety signage can also be installed in entry points and common areas to keep your employees well informed and protected.

2. Rethink meeting spaces

Gathering in a small meeting room without proper ventilation will not look good to people anymore as it can increase the risk of being infected. As people return to the office, meeting and conference rooms should be utilized by only half of the people it can accommodate. Other team members can join virtually through communication and videoconferencing platforms.

3. Improve indoor air quality

Aside from close contact with contaminated surfaces and infected people, the coronavirus could spread through airborne particles in indoor environments. Furthermore, small respiratory aerosols are released when people talk or breathe. These aerosols can build up over time in an office or any other enclosed space. Adding UV lights to air handlers can help cleanse the air and destroy bacteria and viruses. Bringing in air through heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems mitigates any contaminant in a space and reduces the exposure of anyone inside.

Long-term Solutions

 

1. Take the office outside

With improved air filtration systems becoming a key strategy to diminish COVID-19 transmission, outdoor workspaces are becoming the new trend. Some organizations have been experimenting with outdoor workspaces to increase employee engagement and offer a change of scenery. After months of working from the comfort of their homes, employees are craving human interactions to be productive. Adding an outdoor workspace can help businesses restore the lost sense of community for remote workers and give them a chance to reconnect with nature and reduce stress levels.

2. Incorporate biophilic design

Increasing the connection between people and nature does not stop in outdoor workspaces. If taking the office outside seems unachievable, you can always enjoy the benefits of nature from inside your office. Incorporating green walls, natural lighting, and lush greeneries in indoor environments can boost creativity levels, increase productivity, and make your office more attractive to potential talent and clients. Additionally, many plants act as natural air purifiers, making them more vital now than ever.

3. Revolutionize office floor plans

As companies reopen their offices, physical distancing and hygiene concerns may prompt overall floor plan designs to be changed. It is possible that businesses shift back to traditional layouts which include cubicles and private offices to encourage social distancing. Other areas to re-examine are shared facilities such as comfort rooms, which employees use over the course of the day. Door-free entrances similar to airport restrooms can be used to reduce the need to touch surfaces and door handles. Correspondingly, other doors in the office can be redesigned with a foot-contact point or an automated or voice-activated technology that allows them to be opened with the wave of a hand or voice command.

4. Touchless Technology

Numerous companies are starting to shift to touchless office innovations, for example, washrooms with motion sensor lights and light-activated hand dryers and sinks. Presently, advances that were viewed as pleasant to-have — from applications on cell phones to control lighting, temperature and AV gear, to elevators that open with corporate identifications — are being added to lessen contact. 

One thing we have all learned while being isolated for almost a year now is that we value human connection and we want to interact with our colleagues physically at work again. When employees return to the office once the coronavirus pandemic eases, their productivity, health, and safety will have to be front and center.

Restructure your workspace to accommodate employees during the pandemic, and plan for this configuration to be flexible and mindful of employee needs and work habits as you make their health a priority. 

The lessons we learn from this experience will help us design new work environments that promote health and wellness as values that are embedded in our office blueprint.

The future of the workplace is not certain, but it’s important to realize that we’re in the midst of a transformation. 

If you’re interested in moving into an office space that has taken health, wellness, and productivity as major factors into how we have transformed our workspaces, get in touch with us! 

 

What Employees Really Want In a Workplace

For many months now we have proven we can easily and efficiently work from home. Focus work and productivity has been reported to be exceptionally effective at home, and remote collaboration also saw an improvement in effectiveness as compared to doing both activities in the office. However, we can’t manage to effectively do all work activities from home. The workplace not only still remains relevant, it may be more important than ever.

 

There’s really something about going to the office to do some work. People want to go to work to work and somehow create a schism between their life at home and life at work. The role of the workplace has transformed since the pandemic impacted our worklife. 

 

According to a survey done by Genslar, “the most important reasons employees see for coming into the office include meetings, socializing, connecting with colleagues, and building community. This underscores the fact that being with colleagues in person is an invaluable part of the workplace experience, as is being part of a community that can’t be replaced virtually while working from home. This is not only changing expectations of how we work, but it’s changing the role of the physical workplace. The post-COVID-19 workplace will shift away from a place where people simply go to work, and into a place where people want to be to meet, socialize, and work with each other. It will shift from a “work” place for individual work to a “convening” place for group work.”

 

The workspace needs to metamorphose according to time and circumstance. These are determined by technology, the state of the economy and life in general. There’s often a disconnect between what employees want and what employers think employees want. 

 

In Vault’s article Top 9 Things Employees Want in a Workplace, According to a New Study, 

 

“The study—conducted by Future Workplace and View, and written about in the Harvard Business Review by Future Workplace Partner Jeane Meister—found that employees care little about Google-like perks such as food trucks, bowling alleys, and craft-beer happy hours, and care a lot about the basics of human survival such as air, light, and water.” 

 

You need to tailor your space based on their basic needs to get work done and how they can work their best. To ensure you are still providing the best and safe space for returning employees amid COVID-19, here are the top things employees really want in an office space:

 

A Physical Office

In a survey for employees across the United States, 83% of the respondents said they wanted to spend some time in an office over working remotely all the time. Most people, especially after all these months in lockdown, want a change of scenery.

From the same survey, more than half wanted private offices, while less than a third wanted an open floor plan and 20% prefer cubicle offices. 

Most employees have assigned spaces. This means companies should provide office space which employees can personalize, if possible.

It’s most likely similar here in Metro Manila. Remote work has so many challenges. There are daily challenges while living in one of the most densely populated regions in the world. Working from home, employees struggle with crying babies, the occasional crowing rooster, neighbors singing karaoke, and every other distraction imaginable

Great Workplace Environment

If companies spent more time investing in improving the workplace environment over perks like onsite gyms and game rooms, productivity will drastically improve. Employees really just want to be able to work without getting distracted. Here are some of the things they want:

Better air quality

In a survey by Future Workplace, 58% of respondents said they wanted fresh, allergen-free air to improve their wellness.

Comfortable (Natural) Light

The same survey also has half of employees interviewed saying they wanted a view of the outdoors to feel better while working. Employees don’t want to feel boxed in so a view of the outside can improve people’s wellbeing.

Comfortable Temperature

Employees feel better when the temperature is ideal. This means not feeling like winter is coming. Employees are also less likely to get sick from a freezing workplace. Make sure the room temperature is optimally set. Ask your employees.

Privacy

As the trend towards open offices continued, the more employees realized how much they valued their privacy. While collaboration is certainly appreciated by employees, certain work needs complete focus. The solution is variety. Give employees the ability to choose according to their needs.

Employees want their own personal space more than any other place at the office, but companies need to provide other spaces.

You want to provide a variety of locations:

Personal spaces

These spaces need to feel like a base for your employees in case they need individual time on some work.

Large meeting rooms

For when the teams need to meet or do an activity together.

Collaborative spaces

Open offices can be made for entire floors or per team

Places to relax

Employees also need a space that feels entirely separate from the office while being conveniently located nearby.

Quiet spaces

People need a space for meditation or silence

Open office setups save on costs but usually sacrifice privacy and overall comfort for employees. By bringing back privacy even to open offices, you can achieve the purpose of open offices—increased engagement. Giving employees the option to avoid engagement ultimately makes it their idea when they do choose to be engaged with a coworker. One of the takeaways of the great open office experiment is that balance is the key. It’s about organizing space that encourages a variety of experiences.

Great office design provides escape when employees need it. Employees feel empowered by management to make their own decisions, even on how and where they work.

Less Distractions

Another known issue with open office design can be visual noise. Even when you find a quiet spot to work, you can get distracted by activity in your periphery. You need an office design that helps you focus.

There’s also actual noise, which is a common issue for employees. Noise distractions impact employees’ ability to concentrate. Some of these distractions are ringing phones, typing on keyboards, and coworkers talking.

Ask CEOs what the single most important leadership skill is and they’ll tell you: Creativity. The business world is consumer-driven and each day requires problem-solving, iteration and ideation. But these distractions get in the way of creativity and innovation.

Noise control is vital to designing a great workspace. You want to avoid hearing unwanted chatter as you’re trying to meet a deadline. At Arch Offices, we’ve carefully designed serviced offices that meet the criteria, helping clients get work done.

People-centric Office Design

Workspaces need to be catered to the people who will use them. The office needs to motivate and inspire employees. It needs to feel conducive to focus and productivity. Our office spaces in Makati are designed to be just that—flexible and customizable according to how people want to work. Some want to work on their own, others in small teams, and still others in large teams.

Chances to Collaborate

Now more than ever, businesses see the advantages of connecting outside the workplace. “Premium” coworking is trending in large companies for several reasons. It is catering to established professionals and companies that aim to keep their offices small, as well as innovative business owners that see the value of exposing their employees to outside people.

The coworking trend was pioneered by startups that wanted to share space (and cut costs) with other companies. Now, corporations are investing in coworking too. Coworking is now a part of a larger movement for creating spaces where people feel more connected, healthier, and happier.

People Can Thrive in a Workplace That Meets Their Needs

While work from home has proven to be feasible, we cannot completely remove the importance of the workplace. Most employees still want to go to work to a physical space. Companies have to design a workplace that all their employees both in-office and remote, that can cater to their different work needs given the many changes in the way we work. 

As business owners and managers, we need to provide spaces, both open spaces or private offices that help employees get things done. This also means providing personal spaces, coworking spaces, and even quiet rooms while considering a safe workplace for employees during the pandemic. 

Employees will appreciate it when you offer their own space to work. The best workplace is one where people can do their jobs well and with minimal stress and distractions. 

Do you want to find the ideal workspace in the best location that you and your team will love to come to every day? Get in touch with us.