We have surpassed a year since the first lockdown in the UK, which brought offices nationwide to close their doors and employees and employers alike to transition into remote working mode. A lot has changed and now that individuals have more access to the vaccine, what does this mean for the future of the office?
A survey from late 2020 by JLL revealed that 72% of office workers from 10 countries would rather continue to work remotely for at least two days a week when lockdown restrictions ease. Both major businesses including American Express, Facebook and Amazon and smaller businesses have already announced plans to implement a ‘hybrid’ model. This enables their staff to continue working remotely, at least on a part-time basis if they choose.
So, what does ‘the office’ look like in 2021 and beyond? Here are our projections along with some advice on how business owners and managers can foster productivity whilst communicating that safety, mental wellbeing and work life balance is also important.
Flexible working conditions
We don’t doubt that there will still be opportunities to work remotely, even with restrictions easing up slowly. But it is becoming more likely that the traditional office will become a thing of the past.
Whilst some workers thrive off office culture and miss the energy of in-person collaboration the JLL report revealed that 24% of those surveyed would prefer to work exclusively in the office. Despite this, companies can’t ignore that 72% of the survey participants would prefer not to return full time.
Following the trend by big players in the business, we predict that the ‘hybrid’ model is set to become the most popular option for offices across the board. Employees will respond favourably to businesses that allow flexibility in respect to their individual needs. As a result, employers will be able to experience happier and more productive workers - it’s a win-win!
If you are a business leader, you may benefit from asking your employees which they would prefer. The feedback can be integral to how you move forward in 2021. It may be that offering hybrid working gives your employees the opportunity to embrace the new way of working whilst some may want to offer a local coworking space so employees can come and go within flexible working hours but also, be able to step away from home life if they feel it would be more conducive to productivity.
The rise of coworking spaces
There were 16,599 coworking spaces worldwide in 2018. The figure is estimated to exceed 40,000 by 2024. Such spaces have typically been associated with freelancers and start-ups, but in light of the pandemic, we know that coworking spaces are going to increase in popularity even further.
Besides the financial benefits, the nature of coworking is a major asset to businesses. With the networking potential, employees can bring innovative new ideas to the table from outside the box. And compared to the costs of renting and maintaining an office, coworking spaces make for a viable alternative.
Community over commute
After a year of fearing for the health and safety of loved ones and living in near or total isolation, mental health is fragile. The priorities of employees have shifted, and the value of the work life balance has hugely increased.
Whilst eager to return to some sense of normalcy, one thing that employees will not want to rush back to is commuting. The physical distance from loved ones at home and the risk of picking up the virus and other conditions is likely to incite anxiety in even the most dedicated employees.
This is where a coworking space such as Agora can provide an alternative solution. Our locations are situated on the outskirts of commuter cities and avoid the need to take crowded public transit. Once there, a supportive community of freelancers, self-employed consultants and other professionals await, providing the opportunity of collaboration and convenience for your employees.
Reimagining of workstations
At the turn of the millennium, the traditional cubicle layout was replaced by open plan offices that allowed for better communication and an improved working environment. But with an increased demand for video conferencing, it’s worth considering that clients may prefer to keep their communications online rather than in person.
This may require the addition of smaller meeting rooms or conference pods where employees can catch up with clients.
Rather than rethinking the office floor plan, perhaps the most cost-effective solution is for business leaders to refer their workforce to their local coworking space where a variety of meeting rooms and booths are readily available for workers.
Health, safety & hygiene
After over a year of stringently following safety regulations, the new emphasis on hygiene won’t vanish overnight. As offices reopen, businesses will be required to uphold sanitary protocols. These may include more thorough and frequent cleaning regimes and the addition of hygiene stations in the reception.
Employees and stakeholders will also respond to social distancing measures. A coworking space such as Agora is custom designed to maximise cleanliness and accommodate a higher volume of workers safely.
Mental health support
Post pandemic, businesses and managers have more responsibility than ever to provide mental health support. Research from 87percent reveals that British workers are concerned about their physical health and emotional health after the social and economic restrictions.
Providing access to a counselling service is one way that business leaders can support their staff as offices reopen. It is equally important that managers take the time to check in with their team and know how to handle those who are more anxious as a result of the pandemic.
Implementing further health and fitness initiatives is also a way of reconnecting your team members and addressing anxiety about physical health. Agora Heart is a dedicated programme that provides osteopathy, coaching, nutrition, beauty and massage services to support the wellbeing of members.
Sustainable work environments
The pandemic isn’t the only issue on the minds of employees. Particularly among Millennials and Gen Z workers, the climate crisis is a leading concern, and the socially conscious younger generation is worried that the pandemic has derailed political efforts.
If you do not already, then now is the time to switch to upcycled furnishings and renewable energy, install additional recycling stations and stock up on eco-friendly detergents and hand soaps. This means that your increased cleaning regime doesn’t come at the cost of the environment, and your employees will take note. This is yet another area where coworking spaces triumph as the very nature of shared workspaces is sustainability.
Whilst there is still an element of concern and anxiety around going back into the office, we can safely say that we’re moving in the right direction. Whilst the restrictions continue to ease, businesses will need to continually adapt. We hope that the flexibility and ease of coworking spaces can help business during this time and in the future.