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Alternative office

By James Bradley

May 19th, 2020

Coronovirus and the implications for the physical office

The working from home experiment has proved successful and surprisingly easy for many employers, some of whom will inevitably conclude that they simply do not now need the amount of office space they have previously. However, employers must not forget that the office is more than just a place to work – it is a place that provides the social interaction that is vital for the mental and emotional wellbeing of their people.

 

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has radically changed our working patterns, with many offices sitting empty and employers having to find ways for their workforce to operate remotely. That begs the question what long term impact will remote working have on the office occupier market?

 
Following the announcement on 10 May that the “work from home if you can” policy will remain in place for the foreseeable, it is vital that employers and employees get used to the idea. With social distancing restrictions likely to remain indefinitely it is likely that we will continue to see policy that encourages employees to work from home where they can. 

 
The working from home experiment has proved successful and surprisingly easy for many employers. Many were unwittingly already prepared for mass-scale remote working having previously invested in remote working infrastructure and video conferencing facilities. The current pandemic is giving employers an opportunity to assess the viability of remote working against their business models. Some will inevitably conclude that they simply do not need the amount of office space which they have needed up until now.

 
Nevertheless, it is important to be clear that the impact of Covid-19 will not directly remove the requirement for traditional office space.

 
There will still be a requirement for bricks and mortar. For people to interact face to face.  Remote working will not suit all businesses and many office occupiers will not be operating at maximum capacity without the need for office space. Indeed, many employees will not wish to work remotely. The office is more than just a place to work – it is a place to meet and interact with colleagues and clients. 

 
Employers will need to consider changes to the traditional office space to accommodate social distancing measures when employees do return to the office. Strict infection control measures will need to be introduced to combat the threat of transmission of Covid-19. Measures such as extending the distance between desks, closing communal areas, installing sensor activated hand sanitizers and one way staircases will need to be considered.

 
Here are five recommendations to help businesses consider how to use their office space:

 
1.    Review your existing and future office space requirements – a reduction in office space may be cost efficient in the short term, but what long term effect will it have on your business?

 
2.    Consider whether your business is really suited to remote working. Can it operate as successfully with a remote working as opposed to traditional office model? 

 
3.    Consider whether your business can incorporate the success stories of remote working alongside traditional office working to blend the best of both worlds.

 
4.    Engage and consult with your people. Moving from a traditional office model to a remote model is a major shift in employee working patterns and different people will react differently.

 
5.    Consider what social distancing measures need to be introduced to the office to make the workplace a safe environment for employees.

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