Commentary

The changing ‘realty’ of an office design

With employees gradually returning to the office, the need for collaboration while following Covid protocols has become a central theme in any work setting.

June 09, 2022

A strange paradox has emerged out of the pandemic in the office space. Along with social distancing as an accepted norm, there has been an increased demand for more collaborative spaces where employees can come together, socialise, inspire and exchange ideas. 

The proverbial ‘online fatigue’ is no longer a myth. The pandemic-induced isolation has converted it into a reality. Prolonged working from home has given rise to a sense of alienation, causing disruptions to collaboration and teamwork, which are essential for generating new ideas. 

Historically, an office would have 60-70% space dedicated to individuals and merely 30-40% for social or collaborative activities. The reverse is true now.

With employees gradually returning to the office, the need for collaboration while following Covid protocols has become a central theme in any work setting, irrespective of the organisation’s size or nature. Consequently, offices need to be reimagined with new designs that offer returning employees opportunities to collaborate and socialise in the new normal. 

Not having been able to hold in-person meetings with colleagues and clients during repeated peak pandemic periods has uncovered an urgent need for an environment that encourages socialisation and in-person meetings within healthy protocols. 

Cabins and dedicated desks have made way for open sitting arrangements and hot desks. Catch-ups at water coolers have moved to more dedicated spaces inspiring ideation and informal meetings. 

The new office of today has all this and much more!

The spotlight is on healthier, safer, and more hygienic spaces with focus on technology, innovation and sustainability. 

Returning employees have different expectations from the office compared to where they left two years back. They are demanding more flexibility at work, which means the future of work must involve at least some flexibility – be it a hybrid model, remote-centric or office-centric. Health and safety have become a top priority both for employees and employer’s post-pandemic.

Simple design changes can elevate individual workstations to new collaborative spaces that create a healthier ecosystem without impacting the real estate footprint. 

But next-generation workplaces need to rethink design as well as functionality. Although technology and innovation have always been an integral part of real estate, the sudden shift in the way employees engage with their workplace has accelerated their use in the workspace. 

Talent retention is another concern for companies today for which office location will play a crucial role. While the site selection impacts financial performance, it also influences brand perception, work culture and talent retention. Whether considering expansion or consolidation, companies will have to pay attention to where their offices are physically located in the future. 

According to a recent JLL Asia Pacific survey, 7 in 10 workers believe that sustainability initiatives are a must for businesses today, and companies should follow sustainable business practices.

Workspaces of the future will require in-depth design rethinking, encompassing higher allocation for collaborative spaces, long-term sustainability features, technology and innovation to meet the specific requirements of both employees and employers. 

Only such workspaces of the future that empower people and encourage collaboration will succeed in giving the returning workforce a sense of pride and ownership.

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