In early 2020, we looked at the office trends for the year, with collaborative office furniture, flexible workspaces and human-centric designs looking to be accelerated. But one major trend that took over the year was, of course, the global pandemic. Here we take a look at the before and after of office designs around COVID-19 to see how things are changing in the workplace.
As lockdowns came into force across the country, workers were settling down at their dining room tables, on their couches and in home offices as we were all urged to work from home where possible. We’ve been more accustomed to working from home than ever before, surrounded by comforts and a homely feel. Now that the working world has recognised working from home is more feasible, many businesses are adapting by providing more flexibility with office days and work-from-home days.
This new arrangement is inspiring a new office design and feel, one where offices are becoming more than just a place to work and tick off tasks, but a place to bring people together to be more productive and collaborative. When we have gotten used to working from home, with cosy surroundings, an office can look to offer a homely feel and ‘homely working’. Think more cushions, comfort, rugs, hygge features, and cosy colours over minimalism, whites, greys and clinical feels.
Troublingly, the pandemic’s effect on the working world has caused many businesses to cut overheads and even close. Many businesses are downsizing because they find themselves with a lot more space than they need.
Before the pandemic, many offices were larger with more floor space to cater for large teams. Now we’re seeing businesses shifting to smaller office spaces, but ones where social distancing in the workplace can still be effectively implemented.
If you’re looking to downsize, make sure you think about the following:
- Is this a temporary solution?
- Will you continue to offer working from home when things settle down or will you expect full office days again?
- Do you see opportunities for expansion for new roles coming up? Look ahead
- Think about the geography of your office and where it would be best placed to entice employees or potential newcomers
- Remember to make sure it’s suitably spaced to maintain social distancing for whoever is in the building, factoring in potential visitors, too
Before COVID-19 hit, a trend for more collaborative working and office furniture was already popular, but now in a post-pandemic world, business owners are understanding the value of collaborative spaces even more when zoom calls and work-from-home-days aren’t always the most productive.
Not only are collaborative spaces great for sparking ideas and raising productivity, they also offer a way for workers to socialise and cooperate, which now more than ever is key for improving employees’ wellbeing, motivation and mental health. What can a collaborative office look like?
- More communal settings with coffee tables and breakout areas
- Cosy seating with office sofas shaped for productive meetings and hangouts
- Desks that offer more face-to-face layouts over back-to-back ones
- Fun and relaxed areas for people to have breaks in, to chat and share ideas. Think TVs and hybrid offices with libraries and cultural hubs
- Rooms for sports, games or puzzles – a brainstorming session could happen over a ping pong game!
Spacious offices fit for social distancing
A spacious office has always been sought after especially for larger workforces, but around COVID-19 it’s ever more vital. You need to ensure space is fitted for acceptable social distancing, so make sure that signs are clearly placed to remind and guide staff. Policies should reflect what is expected, making sure hygiene is also discussed. Whatever your industry, see how you can adjust and make offices COVID-secure with our guide to social distancing in the workplace.
A return to cubicles in the workplace?
Open-plan was also a popular trend for office design, but now as we’re more focused on social distancing and reducing contact where possible, we could see a temporary revert to more separated layouts with cubicles and more individualisation.
Businesses are already putting up more screens, dividers and glass walls to help fend off the virus. Now, cubicles and private offices could make a comeback to help with defence.
More desk space
In 2019, you could walk into many offices expecting to see shared desk spaces as they work for many types of businesses. In 2020, the emphasis has been on more desk space and probably will be for the years to come. To keep in line with social distancing and government guidelines, more employers are providing individual desks and larger bench desks with dividers and screens – as well as face masks – to provide safer workplaces. We’re saying goodbye to clutter and squashed desks, and hello to flexible working and different spaces to set up workstations.
End of hot desking?
Hot desking, whilst it may work for some, is also being waved goodbye to – but again, maybe temporarily. Having numerous workers sharing the same work area or desk just doesn’t bode well when a virus is seeking hosts. Employers are recognising this by making sure workers have their own areas for primary work, so that they are in charge of their own desks. Many are also providing workers with their own sanitising kits, with antibacterial wipes, hand gels and masks. That way each worker is more assured, knowing who has been at their desk and being more in control of them.
As we head into a new year – one still adapting to COVID-19 – we expect to see safer policies continuing to be implemented with offices being more attractive and homely, rather than just a place of work. Expect to see more screens, dividers, space, signs and guides within offices to keep them COVID-secure. Where working from home is set to continue, businesses are understanding that their spaces of work can offer increased productivity and collaboration, as well as opportunities for socialising and creative brainstorming. Safety first and everything else will follow.