The “Future Workplace” is imminent. How can businesses plan the post-COVID-19 office efficiently?

Business leaders are looking to ensure that when staff return, offices are safe, promoting productivity and connectivity. But does that mean a full re-design?  Not necessarily say Construction Group Consultancy (CGC).

How can businesses adapt their office to suit new working practices without large expenditure in a time of ongoing austerity?

CGC suggests that the wheel doesn’t need to be re-invented, just modified, a pair of winter tyres may be needed to get through these next few months.

Our tried and trusted step guide can help business, efficiently and effectively adapt the workplace for the post COVID-19 landscape.

COVID 19 has accelerated the evolution of modern workplace design faster than developments in technology, furniture or a changing economy have ever provoked change. Indeed, COVID 19 changed the way global economy works overnight.

In March 2020, global business left fully functioning workplaces in order to help global communities limit the spreading disease. The question businesses now face is how to respond to the accelerated change experienced in the last 10 months and how to integrate the workforce back into the workplace.

Whilst staff on the continent generally returned to the office, the UK workforce remained anchored to their home working set-up, whether that be a kitchen table, garden office or perched on an ironing board. Despite a third lock-down, with four vaccines approved – two being administered – the UK is looking toward a tentative return to ‘(the new) normality’, but what does that normality mean for business workplaces?

What changes have we seen?

Global economies contracted, a host of economic sectors severely impacted, office workplaces closed and many business employees relocated to their homes. The mass migration to homeworking fostered an acceleration in video conferencing as both internal and external work teams searched for ways to remain connected and deliver necessary business output.

Internal and overseas travel has been limited and ten months later most UK staff continue to work remotely with only those that cannot work away from the workplace returning.

Health and wellbeing has been pushed further up the agenda; businesses look to better understand the ‘human aspects’ of both remote working and workplace design practices, adopting a ‘people first’ attitude.

What workplace decisions do businesses face now and in the immediate future?

The pandemic has left almost all business with a host of property decisions:

  • ‘How do we safely return staff to the workplace?’
  • ‘Will the workforce want to return; do they need to return?’
  • ‘How can we mitigate our current property costs, now and in the future?’
  • ‘Is the current occupancy strategy correct, does it support social distancing…will we need to provide social distancing as we move forward?’
  • ‘Will the current workplace design adequately support our staff when they return?’

There are also I.T. and H.R. requirements:

  • ‘How will we keep staff connected, now and in the future, whilst they work remotely?’
  • ‘What impact will there be from staff returning to the office, on the remote workforce?
  • ‘What is the impact on Health & Safety and Wellbeing of our staff when working remotely and what responsibility do we have?’
  • ‘How do we integrate new staff members into the workforce?’
  • ‘How do we promote business culture and provide training to staff?’

Many considerations and these are the tip of the iceberg. Of course, what businesses will be looking for, now more than ever, is value from their adopted property strategy.

What are the Workplace Design industry predictions for the post-COVID-19 office?

The Workplace Design industry has been asking these very same questions… the consensus view is that homeworking is here to stay, albeit not all the time, the office still has a large role to play. Linking remote users will be crucial as will flexibility in office components (furniture, joinery, IT). While each business will need a bespoke solution, every workplace will need to promote the firms culture,  and encourage staff creativity, collaboration and wellbeing. Companies’ responsibility will not end in the office, they will need to take responsibility for home working practices too.

Concrete learnings will take time to fully develop following the COVID-19 pandemic, here-in lies the key to flexibility in design – what is done now may not fully suit businesses as we move forward with the global recovery.

But what of now?

How should businesses adapt their office to suit new working practices without large expenditure in a time of ongoing austerity?

CGC suggests that the wheel doesn’t need to be re-invented, just modified, a pair of winter tyres may be needed to get through these next few months.

What steps can businesses take to support staff return to work?

In this ever-changing, uncertain period, companies will look to Return to Work (RtW) in a cost-effective manner. As we negotiate our way out of the pandemic, keeping business financially sound and staff safe will be the main drivers for many.

Companies may be looking at their workplace (currently sitting un-used) and be considering the investment previously made in the context of the value it now provides in terms of staff productivity, safety, connectivity etc. The RtW is likely to be rapid once it begins, businesses will need to make many workplace related decisions; it will be critical not to lose sight of providing value in any change, rather than just looking at cost cuts.

Workplaces are full of assets that hold inherent worth, there is nothing to stop existing assets (furniture, demountable partitioning joinery, IT/AV) being re-purposed to support post-pandemic work practices. Can workstations be turned into team benches in collaboration areas, it is likely that some can. Can excess task chairs be used for collaboration or quiet areas, yes, can they be sent out for home workers, absolutely. Can redundant storage be adapted to create lockers, workbenches or even privacy walls, potentially yes. What of IT & AV – can existing equipment be adapted to maximise connectivity between the remote and present workforces, undoubtedly.

From the outset, CGC can assist companies audit their workplace assets to provide solutions that ensure waste is minimised. Helping you shape a strategy and design brief to reapportion these valuable assets, creating cost effective change solutions to nurture the new way of working.

CGC Steps For Post COVID-19 Office Change:

1.      Audit

Audit company assets and review restrictive building operation costs.

2.      Define The Brief

Agree the staff occupancy and Facilities Management strategies.

3.      Plan

Program the work schedule and compile a project budget.

4.      Design

Develop the brief, through client liaison and interaction, from concept to technical design.

5.      Tender

Tender works against an agreed procurement strategy.

6.      Construct

Deliver the build, co-ordinating technology and furniture installations.

7.      Migrate

Plan, programme and co-ordinate move team members to facilitate the migration to the newly fit-out workplace.

8.      Use & Monitor

Monitor & Survey client occupation and their use of the workplace.

The CGC team are adept at working with clients in a bespoke manner, offering either a full-service Design and Project Management consultancy or working within the client project structure to manage your chosen project team.

If you are interested in finding out more from CGC on how we can assist your business meet the challenges of adapting your workplace to meet new working protocols, contact Stephen Booker.

M: 07957 996 592           

E: stephen.booker@cgc.co.uk   

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/stephen-booker