When workers finally start returning to offices as the country reopens and life starts to get back to normal, they’re likely to find the workspace a very different place to the one they left.
With fewer people expected to be in the office at any one time, this will give businesses of all sizes a chance to reevaluate their working arrangements and develop a more agile way of working.
But the fact is, while many employees may feel more comfortable about working remotely as a result of the lockdown, in truth, the unprecedented situation may have only accelerated a trend that was taking place anyway.
The decline of the traditional office
Agile working has been a focus for the most forward-thinking organisations for a while already, and there’s a growing recognition that you don’t have to be in the office to be productive. Indeed, one study by Atlassian found more than three-quarters of people actively avoid the office when they have important projects to do.
As well as avoiding the distractions of an office, agile working allows people to enjoy a better work-life balance and cut out long and potentially expensive commutes. In turn, this means higher morale among employees and improved overall productivity and loyalty to the company.
In the past, efforts to promote flexible working may have been hindered in certain roles by the need to access critical data or applications that would only be available on the office’s network. For instance, contact centre employees would need access to the firm’s phone system and CRM software and may not have had the necessary hardware or connectivity to do this from home.
But this has now all changed, with solutions such as widespread high-speed broadband and powerful cloud computing software allowing more people to work from wherever they are with no restrictions on what they can do.
A more flexible working hub
However, this does not yet mean the office space will be consigned to history. There will still be a need for a physical base for businesses, as employees will still feel a need to meet face-to-face on occasion, whether this is for important meetings with clients or just to enjoy the social aspects of the workplace.
To respond to these changing needs, firms will therefore have to rethink how their office works. Rows of desks in a single, open-plan space may no longer be needed, while instead, more informal collaboration areas and hotdesking facilities will be what is required.
Meanwhile, meeting rooms will need to be reoriented to support a new way of working where people in the office are connecting remotely with those at home. This means rethinking audio-visual equipment to ensure everyone can participate fully, whether they are in the room or at home.
All this means the office will take on a different role in the years to come. For many people, it will no longer be their primary place of work, but instead will become smaller and more social. Ultimately, it will be a place people come to for the experience, so businesses need to make sure they’re offering their employees something unique to be successful.
Learn more about the office of the future and what you’ll need to do to adapt to it in the White Paper: Reshaping the workspace: The future of AV in the office