The new work reality
How to maintain 1.5meter distance at the office? How do you ensure that employees (continue) to follow the new guidelines at the office? What is the function of the office in the new working reality? How can we continue to effectively work from home. These are some of the current challenges for many companies and organisations. The way of working at the office will complete change in the future compared to what we are used to.
Research among our customers shows that 81% of respondents expect the working environment to look different permanently.
After resuming work in the office we expect that these will be the three biggest challenges in the work environment:
- Preventing infections by 1.5m distance
- Achieving a proportionate safe distribution of people within the work environment
- Achieving behavioural change in the field of routing and hygiene
In addition, 84% of respondents expect employees will work from home for one or more days per week after the measures have been eased.
‘Meeting colleagues, involvement in the organisation and facilities such as screens, are the three aspects that employees miss most when working from home.’
Personal space, safety and hygiene will add a new dimension to the new working reality. Currently we see that the focus is still mainly on adaptations to the working environment in preparation for a limited return of employees to the office. The demand for a healthy workplace at home is also increasing.
The upcoming months, i.e. the period when a working vaccine is not yet available, will be marked by a limited capacity in both public transportation and the office, making partially working from home a necessity. This period requires an intelligent distribution of work between the office and at home as well as permanent safety measures to prevent the virus from spreading. This would allow us to return (safely) to the office without breaching the capacity of the public transportation or the office.
In the long term, a new working reality will emerge, in which frequently working from home is there to stay, the trend that an office is a social hub and a central feature of the corporate culture where employees like to go to meet, to encounter, to collaborate and be coached and trained will intensify. Concentrated working will take place from home more frequently, whilst business travel will be replaced by video calling from the office.
The new work reality in 4 trends
1. The office as social a hub
The trend that an office is a social hub where employees like to go to meet, to encounter, to collaborate and be coached and trained intensifies. This requires smart prioritisation (Who does what, where - at the office or at home - and when). Innovative floor plans based on a redefinition of function and usage can help to meet future capacity requirements within the restrictions that apply. Supporting solutions such as information systems, apps and signage can also play a role in this.
2. Personal space
Personal space, safety and hygiene will have a lasting influence on the layout of offices. Open plan offices with a high density of people will be adjusted to reduce the chance of infections. This will most likely lead to more (permanent) space per employee, and new ways of separation and new material usage. However, this should not interfere with the social function of the office.
Starting points for a restructuring are making the most effective use of the available number of square meters and, where possible using the existing furniture. In the short term, working back-to-back or in closed spaces can be a good solution, as is separation with (transparent) screens between workplaces. For the medium to long term a new flexible redesign plan is valuable. This allows the workplace and meeting rooms to quickly adapt to new situations.
3. Working from home more frequent and more focused
The workplace at home is an integral part of the new working environment and thus its status will be different than before.
Especially concentrated working will take place more often from home. Therefore the workplace at home will be professionalised and will receive more attention from employers and social partners. Because the same rules apply to healthy working at home as in the office: an easily adjustable desk with a minimum size of 140 x 80 cm, cabling safely concealed and an ergonomic office chair that complies with European regulations.
4. Less traveling, more videoconferencing
Business travelling will often take place virtually from the office, supported by the implementation of isolated workspaces and lounges with business class facilities and technical solutions such as Teams and Zoom. This so-called "new business class" offers privacy on the one hand and on the other hand limits noise nuisance for the rest of the office.
These and other findings served as a starting point to develop a number of solutions. The solutions are not limited to furniture, but also focus on the usage of materials, technology, layout planning and behavior.
* Anonymous research among clients of Royal AhrendCheck out all our COVID solutions here