Designing Workspaces for a Post-COVID World

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While some companies are just trying to survive this period of remote work and economic uncertainty, other businesses are looking toward the future. COVID-19 will likely change how we interact with each other in the office environment and even how we design offices in the near future. Business leaders are working to make their campuses more sanitary through changes in office layout design.

This means that COVID-19 will impact all aspects of work and the economy, even commercial construction. Consider these three factors that will impact your blueprint designs and client requests in the future. 

Remote Work Will Likely Continue

Remote work has risen steadily over the past few decades. By 2019 estimates, the number of people who work from home has increased by 140% since 2005. The coronavirus could be the push that some employers need to authorize more remote work for their employees. 

In April 2020, Gartner surveyed 317 CFOs on what the workplace will look like after the COVID-19 quarantine is lifted. It found that 74% of leaders plan to move at least five percent of their workforce to remote positions permanently. A quarter of respondents plan to move at least 20% of their workforce to permanent remote positions. 

There are significant financial benefits for companies that allow remote work. In 2015, Citigroup moved to a “hot-desking” layout where employees worked where they wanted and didn’t have assigned desks. This move reportedly saved the company $10 million annually. When employees telecommute – even part-time – companies have to pay rent on empty space. Citigroup was able to rent a much smaller space while authorizing more remote work. 

Within the commercial construction sphere, developers can expect offices to grow smaller as less cubicle space will be required since more employees will work remotely. Still, demand for conference rooms and meeting space may increase when these remote employees come into the office. 

Employees Will Have More Space to Work

While some companies may want less room because of their increasingly remote workforce, others may need more space to prevent the spread of germs.

WeWork is a company that offers hot-desking, co-working, and affordable office space for entrepreneurs and startups. It recently announced its planned changes to prevent the spread of illness after the pandemic has passed. These include slashing meeting space capacity in certain rooms so attendees will be more spread out, and creating “buffer zones” where tenants can work more than six feet apart. 

“While we don’t know for certain the long-term impact COVID-19 will have, there is no doubt that our reentry back to the workplace will require a greater emphasis on professional distancing,” WeWork CEO Sandeep Mathrani said in an email to clients. 

This professional distancing means giving employees more space, and building offices and cubicles (instead of an open floor plan) that can limit the spread of bacteria and viruses through the workplace.  

COVID-19 Will Change the Focus of Interior Office Design

Along with changing the physical size and layout of office buildings, the coronavirus pandemic will impact how companies want their offices to be designed. As a result, commercial developers will need to be at the forefront of office tech, flooring, and materials in order to install exactly what customers want and find useful. 

For example, touchless technology is highly in-demand. This is evident on the consumer-facing side with brands like Publix speeding up plans to launch contactless payment or tap-to-pay systems. Similar trends will follow in office buildings, with technology for swiping IDs, clocking in and out, and generally navigating the office environment quickly getting installed. It is entirely possible that buyers will expect this technology to come standard with a workspace, or at least have the infrastructure built in to install it. 

Additionally, demand for design materials like antimicrobial carpet and flooring will likely increase dramatically. Companies want materials that can break down particles that threaten the health of human workers, including bacteria and fungi. They also want surfaces that can be easily cleaned and sanitized should there be another coronavirus flare-up or future pandemic.

American workers can expect to see both small and large changes to their work environments once this pandemic passes. Along with major changes like increased remote work and smaller office spaces, there will be minor adjustments like contactless ID scanners. Commercial developers need to be aware of these expectations and develop workspaces to meet their clients’ needs.

 

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