In an instant, we have all witnessed how the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the way we work. Recent studies have shown that more than half of the global workforce was ill-equipped for home working prior to the outbreak. Finding efficiencies in how we can all work from home has become a strategic imperative for all businesses to survive in these challenging times.
I for one have loved being at home for mealtimes with my two young children and being able to put them to bed every night, rather than being stuck in gridlocked motorway traffic. Swapping hours lost on the daily commute for additional quality time with the family or for squeezing in some extra exercise will have done wonders for the wellbeing of many, and will no doubt mean that more staff will be keen to work from home more regularly post lockdown.
Businesses will carefully analyse and monitor output to see what the true effects home working has had on productivity and will adjust their management strategies accordingly. They will also need to consider the effects on the wellbeing of their people, as the links between wellbeing and productivity are commonly known.
Lease events will dictate that businesses continue to require new office fit-outs and they will remain in the same key locations as before but potentially on shorter and more flexible terms due to the greater economic uncertainty following the COVID-19 pandemic. Clients will continue to invest in ‘best in class’ fit-outs that give them the edge over their competitors and help them attract and retain the best people. In the short-term, we may well see a slight market correction to spiralling city centre rents as clients look to get more ‘value’ from slightly smaller tenancies to accommodate an increase in flexible working practices.
It would be naïve of us to think that all businesses going forward will have most of their employees working from home each week to make significant savings in real estate costs. Research has shown that a lack of face-to-face interaction and collaboration with others can negatively affect teamwork and innovation, and feelings of isolation and loneliness can be commonplace with home working. We all crave human interaction and so we will never truly replace the physical workplace where we can fully interact with our colleagues on a personal level, chat over a coffee or lunch, develop friendships, collaborate and generally thrive as human beings.
Going forward, we anticipate our clients will invest more in better collaboration spaces that encourage greater social interaction and engagement between staff in the office and those working remotely. Increased investment in technology is also anticipated to support the need for advanced collaboration and to allow seamless remote working in order to protect business continuity should any further outbreaks occur again in the future.
Social distancing, in some form, is here to stay for the foreseeable future and this will have a big impact in the short term on space planning requirements, working practices and occupancy levels.
There will be a greater emphasis on workplace hygiene for staff and visitors through permanent hand sanitiser stations, improved fresh-air and ventilation rates and a reduction in the need to touch common surfaces by using sensor taps, automated doors etc. Facilities management strategies will include enhanced cleaning regimes and no sharing of desk-top equipment on hot desking. We fully expect it will become the norm for office receptions to be proudly displaying a form of hygiene accreditation scheme certification sometime soon.