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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.

The New Normal of Workspaces: How ARCH Offices Reinvented their Spaces amid COVID-19

Photo by Edward Jenner from Pexels                                                                                                            

There is no doubt that COVID-19 has upended our lives in general—disrupting our routines, affecting our jobs and businesses. The global pandemic has altered how and where we work, making us rethink the future of office spaces. With our current situation, the way we design workspaces will never be the same again. COVID-19 has created the need for a faster than anticipated transformation for our workspaces; one that shall ensure a safe and efficient work environment for employees returning to work amid the pandemic. At the end of the day, we must adapt and roll in with the punches to thrive in the post COVID-19 world.

While the pandemic has posed a challenge for everyone to adapt to the new normal, the role of the office environment is more important than ever. 

Here are five key features of the workplace amid COVID-19:

 

1. Well-implemented Social Distancing Protocols 

COVID-19 safety measures require greater physical separation in workplaces via spatial means. To ensure proper distancing between co-workers, workstations should be spaced further apart. Sensible strategies include putting up barriers, moving desks apart, and decreasing chairs. Seating arrangements should also be spaced accordingly, making sure that employees are avoiding close contact. The same measures apply to conference rooms as meetings shall be limited in the number of participants, duration, and proximity. Most importantly, physical distancing should be observed at all times—even in elevators, cafeterias, and restrooms.

2. Enhanced Disinfection Efforts 

The key to maintaining a safe and healthy workplace is to implement regular cleaning schedules and enhanced sanitation measures. If feasible, business owners can also invest in automated systems like motion-sensor doors and faucets. We want to avoid touching potentially unclean surfaces as much as possible, especially for offices in cities like Makati that rely on public transportation. By eliminating the need to touch surfaces, members and guests will feel more comfortable getting in our offices.

3. Installation of Sanitation Facilities 

To make people feel more secure, offices are highly encouraged to equip certain areas of the workplace with sanitation products such as hands-free soap dispensers, complimentary face masks and paper tissues, disinfecting mats, and automatic hand sanitizers.

4. Improved Workstation Designs 

There are alternative ways to reinvent serviced office layouts in order to make physical distancing feel more comfortable. Adding new elements to workstations like glass is one option. Conference rooms can also be redesigned to create a more flexible working environment. If your office has narrow hallways, you can turn some of them into one-way only corridors if possible. In preparation for future disruptions similar to COVID-19, we will need to future-proof our offices with adaptable furniture, antimicrobial appliances, and technology that limit touching.

5. Display of Signages and Reminders 

One of the best ways to properly maintain safety protocols is to set up visual aids. Display posters about proper handwashing procedures and measures on how to reduce the risk of virus in visible areas of the workplace to raise awareness. Floor stickers are also effective to ensure that everyone is keeping proper social distance. For one-way entry and exit points, clear signages and markings are vital. Apart from floor decals, you may also opt for directional arrows displayed eye-level at the walls or doors of the office.

 

As we adjust and reconfigure serviced offices to cater to the post COVID-19 environment and ensure a safe workplace for our members, we have started to implement temporary changes that will secure the safety of our members. Here’s how we made our office spaces safe and secure during the pandemic:

Watch Our Video: How we are making our offices safe

 

 

1. Health and sanitation protocols upon entry

Everyone will be subject to health and sanitation procedures before entering our premises. There are sanitizing footbath mats ready at the entrance to disinfect footwear and body temperature will be checked upon entry. Everyone will also be required to answer the DOH Health Checklist first before finally being granted access to our office spaces.

2. Regular disinfection of common touch points

We established new protocols and amplified cleaning schedules to make sure that high-touch surfaces and common areas are sanitized regularly. Our disinfection and sanitation efforts focus on workstations, countertops, and door handles, among others. If necessary, there will also be immediate COVID-19 disinfection provided for objects or corners in the workplace that may likely be touched or visited by a person who is suspected or confirmed to have the virus.

3. Contactless hand sanitizers in common areas

Automatic hand sanitizers are located at entry and exit points, as well as other common areas. We have utilized some of the desks and corners in our office spaces as hand sanitation stations to help promote proper hygiene and most importantly, reduce the risk of infection among co-workers.

4. Visual sanitation reminders and signages

We posted signs and reminders in prominent places around the workplace to increase awareness and help our community observe proper health protocols. Some of the signages we displayed include COVID-19 hotlines, proper handwashing procedures, guidelines for occupying meeting rooms and other common areas, safety measures for using appliances, and instructions on how to use RFIDs safely, among others.

5. Proper observation and implementation of social distancing protocols

We have implemented movement restrictions and physical distancing measures to ensure minimal physical contact within the workplace. We have also established safety protocols in accordance with health and safety guidelines. Two-meter distance between workstations and seats in common areas are properly observed to avoid close contact between co-workers. As the national and local governments continuously implement new health guidelines for the public, our community assures to follow the standards to create a safe space for our members and clients.

The changes in the work environment may feel strange at first, with co-workers separated by partitions and avoiding physical contact. “New normal” can mean differently in a lot of ways for all of us, but we know for sure that the pandemic has changed the workplace forever. The challenge ahead of us is to make our work environments even better than before. These enhancements are ever-evolving, keeping pace with changing health guidelines as well as member needs. But one thing remains a constant at ARCH Serviced Offices: We are focused on providing you with a safe and secure office space so you can continue to create your best work. As we continuously reinvent office spaces for the better, we aim to ensure a safe working environment and improved level of wellbeing for our members. 

If you’re interested in leasing or renting an office space at this time and want to learn more about our safety measures, please get in touch and email us at hello@archoffices.com.

 

6 Ways to Manage Workplace Stress During COVID-19 Pandemic

Image courtesy of Ivan Samkov from Pexels

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has caught everyone off guard—from small and medium-sized enterprises and startups to business owners and employees. As companies began to resume operations in the wake of the global health crisis, their entire workforce is reintegrated and employees are gradually returning to the office with safety measures in place. Most employees are going back after working from home, while some are coming from a much needed furlough.

In any case, these varying work experiences have the potential for stirring up tension and anxiety. Reentering the workplace after a global pandemic such as the coronavirus is a first for all of us. But there are ways on how you can manage your stress and boost your productivity, and such measures can also help you build mental resilience and adjust to the new normal with less anxiety.

6 Ways to Manage Workplace Stress During COVID-19 Pandemic - Blog - ARCH Offices

Source: Jeffrey Czum from Pexels

List Down Priorities for the Day

As you go back to work, prioritization will be crucial than ever. Start off your day by listing down your to-dos according to their level of importance. But with nonstop emails from your superior and ad hoc tasks coming up every once in a while, deciding what deserves your full attention can become overwhelming. Nonetheless, the benefits of mastering prioritization can change your life. Knowing which tasks to focus on can reduce stress, improve time management and productivity, and even help you strike a healthy work-life balance as you create better boundaries during your workday. A study by researchers at Florida State University found that being committed to a specific goal makes it easier to focus your brain solely on the task at hand. Once you know how to prioritize both your time and tasks, you realize that much of the work that seemed urgent at first does not really need your attention—at least not right away.

Practice Soothing Activities During Commute

Making your way to the office can either be an opportunity to find momentary solitude or a source of stress. Before heading to work, prepare a comforting playlist. When you are taking public transportation, catch up on your favorite book or watch Netflix on your phone. If you are walking to work, take a moment to look around and appreciate the sights. A study in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine found that adding moments of leisure to your day can reduce both your brain’s and body’s response to stress, thus decreasing heart rate as well as improving your mood and overall well-being.

Share Key Takeaways

Every one of us has definitely learned a thing or two in the last five months. Whether it is finding out about our most productive time of the day or learning about new organization techniques, these key takeaways might just be as helpful to your colleagues as well. You can incorporate these lessons that you have uncovered during the lockdown to accommodate changing workplace needs and improve efficiency. Apart from that, these exchanges of information can lead to increased performance and improved decision-making.

Reintroduce Team Building Activities

You may have tried virtual team building activities with your remote team to boost morale and chill out after a long day of work. It could have been in the form of thrilling games, happy hour, or simply just a fun chitchat to cultivate a sense of community despite the distance and situation. These team building activities can help combat loneliness and isolation, especially in the case of remote workers. While a skeletal workforce is being implemented in most companies nowadays, you can suggest having contactless in-person activities to get everyone back in sync and regain a sense of belonging.

Be Open About Your Well-being Goals

The coronavirus pandemic has drastically affected our physical and mental well-being, thus forcing us to acknowledge that we must also prioritize our self to unlock our full potential. While most of us are returning to the workplace, some might still be going through some significant physical and emotional impacts of the unfortunate situation. Carving out time for a focus group discussion or one-on-one with your superior or colleague to lay down your well-being goals is essential in fostering accountability and encouragement.

Put Away Devices Before You Sleep

Poor sleeping habits lead to higher levels of anxiety. Checking your phone or laptop and browsing through social media for news updates can trigger fears especially in times of crisis, resulting in lack of sleep. Not only can it stimulate our brain and make it hard to wind down, the light from the screen can also suppress the natural production of melatonin, a hormone that the body makes to help us sleep. Moreover, a study by the European Sleep Research Society found that sleep impacts our ability to pick up on other people’s emotions. By putting away your devices hours before going to bed, you can sleep better and be your most compassionate self.

6 Ways to Manage Workplace Stress During COVID-19 Pandemic - Blog - ARCH Offices

Source: Andrew Neel from Pexels

Totally eliminating stress from our lives is impossible, but we can learn to manage it. We may be dealing with stressors we have never even experienced before as we return to work. But when we discover the root cause of our stress, how we respond to it, and what helps us recharge, we can be in a position to prevent any imminent issues that may affect our productivity.