Post Covid-19 offices and workplaces: Changes are coming
While the pandemic has threatened the future of workplaces as we know them, it is equally true that post-Covid-19 offices present unprecedented opportunities. The downsizing of our company has been an opportunity to redesign the spaces in which we work, filling its many gaps. Of course, it is necessary for offices and co-working to function differently from what we know and use today. The pivot around which the workspace revolution will revolve, in addition to the hygiene rules that have now become part of everyday life, will undoubtedly be the balance between face-to-face working and smart working. Large spaces, less single offices and open space environments, with regulated and controlled flexibility. We are unlikely to find ourselves in a dystopian society like Brabdury’s, thanks mainly to the arrival of the vaccine, but the question of post-Covid-19 offices remains as relevant as ever.
Post Covid-19 offices and Smart Working: a possible balance?
Remote working – also called smart working but also, more improperly, agile working, which was implemented by several companies even before Covid-19 and took over for a substantial segment of the population after its advent – has both positive and negative aspects. A work-life balance and less time wasted travelling are certainly among the advantages to be listed for employees. Less consumption and less space to rent are those to be counted for companies.
The other side of the coin, especially for those with large families or young children, is poor concentration and inadequate space or equipment. Not to mention new employees, who find themselves in a new world, often without ever having seen or met their colleagues. The human aspect, often overlooked, remains among the things that impact most strongly on evaluations these days.
The Huffington Post listed a number of CEOs who are ready to maintain a post-Covid hybrid office model forever, including Cisco Italia’s Collaboration Leader, Enrico Miolo, or Google itself. Others, such as Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon, call it ‘an aberration that we will correct as soon as possible’. Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins thinks his employees ‘can’t wait’ to get back to the office. But then, why do companies like Twitter go so far as to offer their employees work from home ‘forever’?
An asset class to downsize
If large companies have had to downsize their way of working and managing space at short notice, co-working spaces have also been hit hard. As reported by Forbes, WeWork – one of the world’s largest co-working companies – posted a disastrous quarter at the end of 2020, with a loss of more than USD 1.7 billion. It has sold its assets in China and is ready to revolutionise its business model in a radical way. Understandable, since the occupancy rate of co-working spaces plummeted by 27% from February to November 2020.
The new model of office and co-working spaces
Mental and physical flexibility, which is the real goal companies should aim for, will also come through a different model of designing workspace. First of all, a focus on places of assembly – halls and entrances, relaxation areas and coffee machines, lifts and meeting rooms. Fewer individual offices and assigned cubicles, but spaced out and open spaces where everyone can book their own workstation before arriving. Restricted entrances, with a maximum number of workers in attendance per day. Many architects and designers have come forward with their own vision of the post-Covid-19 working environment. One of the most interesting is certainly that of Woods Bagot in his project “Working from home, Working for work”, which proposed four model types: Culture Club, In and Out, Community nodes and Collective.