2021: the death of the office – or a workplace reborn?
Ever since the global shift to homeworking in March 2020, there’s been much commentary around ‘the death of the office’, ‘digital overload’ and ‘the new normal’. And, while there’s little doubt that the events of the past year will not see us simply returning to how things used to be, it’s important to truly understand what matters to workers across the globe – now more than ever.
Here at Agilité, office refurbishment and workplace design is our ‘bread and butter’ – as is taking a concept and bringing it to life. We’ve seen client briefs adapting greatly in recent months – evolving into bold ambitions for socially-distanced, covid-secure, yet incredibly inspiring workspaces, which allow for hotdesking, co-working, and a return to some semblance of ‘business as usual’.
Keen to understand how behavioural attitudes to our bricks-and-mortar workplaces are continuing to change as Europe begins to rebuild, we enlisted the help of the Franco-British Chamber of Commerce and surveyed its members – in both France and the UK – to see how their ‘ideal’ might look.
While most respondents had, understandably, been forced to move to a homeworking setup in 2020, the vast majority had previously adopted a hybrid home/office approach to their ‘operating space’ long before the pandemic forced their hands.
As a result, it’s perhaps unsurprising to see that most of those surveyed will look to continue such an approach in 2021 and beyond.
Although most research says that people want a hybrid approach to the office vs. a permanent shift to home working, the survey found that the number of people hoping to permanently work from home has doubled compared to those who operated remotely prior to the international shutdowns.
Looking at the space itself – and plans to stay put, downsize, or scrap HQ completely – half of respondents expected to remain in the same office, either due to contractual obligations or as it was already fit-for-purpose.
Interestingly, 30% are now looking to move to a co-working space – a trend we’ve seen on the rise quite considerably over the past few years. Although this might, at first, make for uncomfortable viewing for traditional commercial property owners, it should be seen as an opportunity, too.
While a workforce which strikes a happy work/life balance will always be more productive – and likely to stick around – it also presents the chance to ‘go back to the drawing board’ and create a space where employees want to come and work, perhaps when they need to be creative and share ideas and innovations with colleagues.
What’s more, despite the fact that many people used to bemoan their commute – battling traffic and being forced onto overloaded trams and tubes – it has been one of the ‘most missed’ elements of others’ weeks, acting as a physical marker of the start and end of a working day.
But, Microsoft Teams has a solution for that. If you’re one of those people who welcomes that ‘buffer’ between home/work life, this is quite the savvy solution – and one that much of the team has been embracing here, too.
Of course, what has become apparent is that, what works for one, won’t for another. While we know most previously office-based functions can work remotely – albeit with a little disruption at times – what’s come from the events of the past year is the importance to be able to provide options.
Landlords and tenants need to delve deeper in order to determine what matters to those using their spaces – genuinely working hard to uncover how company culture and practicalities can work together to provide a ‘home from home’ for all employees.
Thank you to the Franco-British Chamber and its members for taking the time to share their ideas with us.