Emerging Trends and New Trajectories for Office Spaces
When thinking about how the pandemic has impacted office spaces, the first thought for most of us is probably the mass exodus experienced last spring and the normalization of working from home.
And for good reason – it has become the norm for the majority of the population.
However, the impacts of the pandemic extend beyond temporary stay-at-home orders and will set the course for the future of office spaces long after COVID-19 is behind us.
We will explore some of these trends and trajectories that have been caused by the pandemic experience, characterizing a new era for office space management.
Remote Work is Here to Stay
This should be evident by now, but for those that are still in denial: most employees are expecting to continue working from home at least once a week.
And you need to start planning for it.
The good news is, it is likely that you have already made some investments and created some temporary solutions, such as increasing bandwidth, cloud storage, and collaboration technologies, while your organization navigated remote work. These just need to be tweaked and refined to better suit the post-pandemic future of your office.
Your space management strategies must also change to adapt these more flexible policies to continue optimizing your space:
Activity-Based Working (ABW): While an open office concept is meant to inspire creativity and collaboration amongst colleagues, the reality is that an open office is not a one-size-fits-all solution. That’s why many companies are turning to ABW – a hybrid approach that combines a range of spaces for employees to access and rotate between.
Hot desking is a flexible workplace strategy where employees do not have assigned seats and choose where they sit on a first-come, first-served basis. This means that there is no formal reservation system in hot desking. This method increases the ratio of employees to desks, reducing the wasted space that occurs when employees assigned to those spaces aren’t in the office.
The office hoteling model is a reservation-based strategy, meaning employees schedule their use of workspaces before they arrive at the office and only on an as-needed basis. This method supports telecommuting, as well as ensuring equal access to office resources. In addition, space is optimized while reducing overhead costs.
Access more of our remote- and hybrid-work resources below:
- Assessing the Need for In-Office Work During the Transition
- The New Hybrid Workplace
- Meeting Space Solutions for the Hybrid Workplace
- The Importance of Communicating Your Organization’s Return-to-Office Policy
- Why Your Company Needs a Remote Work Policy (& How to Build One!)
Invest in Office Occupancy Tech (Yes, Even Post-Pandemic)
Before COVID hit, the goal of many corporate offices was to maximize space utilization.
Now, the need for physical distancing has turned this trend upside down, requiring most spaces to monitor and control occupancy to safe levels. Different registration and reservation software systems have been adopted to aid with this, which can be used to make space management and optimization more efficient post-COVID.
In addition, the use of wellness checks for both staff and visitors has led to the adoption of different management and registration systems that can easily be pivoted to provide other benefits when screenings are no longer required.
For example, desk booking software makes it easy for employees to see office occupancy levels and reserve their ideal space when they want to come into the office.
Office occupancy technology also enables leadership to methodically collect data on occupancy and usage levels as we reach a new steady state to available space that can be better aligned with real need. This can have significant employee satisfaction and cost-effectiveness benefits, making it a worthy investment even after the pandemic is behind us.
Prioritize Collaboration Space
Unsurprisingly, the main reason employees want to come back to the office is to be able to better collaborate and socialize with others.
Your office set-up should reflect this and facilitate the types of interactions and engagements that your employees are seeking.
For example, rather than traditional office designs with assigned seats, think about incorporating more conference rooms and huddle areas in their layouts.
It is important to also consider reconfiguring conference rooms and update capacity limits to keep employees safe for the time being. Afterward, use these applications and display systems to make finding and booking meeting spaces easier.
In addition, reservation systems can also be made for group meeting spaces to better cater to the needs of your employees and reinforce your office as a space dedicated to collaboration.
Almost half of business leaders said that implementing new collaboration technology was a high priority for them this year, responding to these emerging trends.
It is important (and beneficial, also) to look to your employees for more information about their preferences – they are the experts, after all! By conducting your own surveys, you can garner a better sense of the needs and preferences of your workforce and plan accordingly.
Stagger In-Office Days
This way, you get the best of both worlds: employees have access to the office while you get to limit capacity and/or reduce space.
In fact, 45% of company leaders who responded to the Verdantix Future of the Workplace Survey said they are going to allocate specific days in the office.
This strategy has multiple benefits, particularly if it is important that teams are represented in the office every day or all team members must be present to collaborate, ensuring that everyone is where they need to be.
You have options to stagger office presence by days or shifts but remember to always be democratic about it. Listen to the needs and desires of your employees to make your decisions more informed.
Especially when paired with the occupancy technology discussed above, this can be a very effective space optimization strategy.
Don’t Reduce Your Real Estate – Optimize It
As the pandemic lingered, many questioned whether the experience had put an end to traditional “office life.”
While it is true that some organizations are reducing office real estate, most appear to be making these cuts with a chisel rather than an axe.
A mere 18% of companies expect to reduce office space, and most plan to only reduce it by up to 20%—only 3% plan to shrink their footprint more than that.
Another 18% actually expect to increase their office footprint in order to reduce density and give employees more access to collaborative spaces.
The majority, 63%, plan to keep their office real estate the same.
Think Comfort, Not Cost
The pandemic has reshaped not only the purpose of the modern office but also the way in which we think about office space utilization and optimization.
The goal is no longer merely to reduce costs, but space is being seen as a key factor in the larger objectives of improving the employee experience.
Especially now that employees have the option to work anywhere, the office space has to compete with the amenities and benefits of other spaces. Squished cubicles have no place in the modern office.
The goal is to create a space that is conducive to work, one that makes the employees feel comfortable and catered to.
Consider Starting Satellite Offices
Part of making offices more user-friendly (as well as competitive) is their accessibility.
Many employees will be very reluctant to return to their regular commutes after experiencing the huge financial and time savings of working from home.
Setting up satellite offices may be a solution, as it offers both the benefits of working in-office and reduces commuting time.
The Future of Work
Just because more organizations aren’t dramatically reducing their space doesn’t mean that they won’t be changing how they use that space.
While the immediate focus is on maintaining workplace health and safety, most of the trends will reflect the focus on occupancy, wellness, and employee satisfaction.
The pandemic has accelerated pre-existing movements towards remote and hybrid work and incentivized many new technological developments which will drive the look and feel of the modern workplace.
The employee desire for flexibility as well as spaces that create a collaborative, cohesive company culture will characterize the future of our workplaces.
One of the best ways to prepare for these changes is to implement space management software that makes it easy to monitor utilization, navigate and update your floor plans, and analyze occupancy patterns.
Horizant specializes in tailored space management software and has a solution that will meet your unique corporate needs. Take the first step to updating your office space for the future of work by contacting our team today.