The Post-Pandemic Workplace

George Killingbeck

04 Apr 2021

Steelcase Image Post Pandemic

A whole new way of working lies ahead. But with a positive, flexible approach, you can welcome your team back with open arms (or rather, a risk-free elbow bump). Here’s our advice for doing just that, with a few questions to get you thinking.

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Get the quick wins right

Sanitising stations, extra signage and screens between desks will be the new office staples. But when restrictions finally lift again, your workspace needs to feel welcoming – a place your team can knuckle down without worry.

If your office needs to accommodate the same people, you need to get clever about maintaining their safety. Keep things inviting by looking for ways to comply with the rules without creating an imposing, clinical feel – think hospitality, not hospital.

Can you create natural barriers within your workspace layout? Where can you position your sanitising stations so they look intentional, rather than rushed? The idea is to create a space where people will understand the new format without needing to have it explained to them. You can achieve all this with clever design features and layout switches.

Check in with the home team

Maybe lockdown made you realise that you can survive without an office. You might even be thinking of closing your bricks and mortar workspace for good. Before you push ahead, check in with your team – not everyone wants to hand in their office key and set up in the spare room forever.

In fact, only a quarter of the UK workers surveyed by Hubble HQ said they’d want to work from home full time. The rest view the workspace as vital for a vibrant, collaborative team culture. The co-worker connection is something we just can’t get from home. Plus, a big ol’ chunk of us miss those meeting rooms. Maybe Zoom isn’t quite cutting it after all.

Say hello to hybrid working

That’s not to say we should abandon the benefits that home-working has brought: the 20-second commute to the living room, the fully-stocked fridge, the extra family time. Plus, some personalities just suit the home office better than others. That’s why, when restrictions lift, we expect to see many interpretations of agile and hybrid working coming to the fore.

If you see agile and home working as permanent fixtures in your company’s future, how will you adapt your workspace to support that? Start thinking about how a blend of agile, home and office working would look for your company. Don’t worry – this won’t mean tripling your spend. With some smart planning, you can make your budget work harder for you.

Our take on it? Adaptable workspaces will be key – they give everyone the space they need when they’re in the office, and leave minimum dead space when they’re not.

Our team has spent the past months developing innovative new ways to create the safe, multipurpose spaces that will be essential in the transition back to the office.

The office of the future

Lockdown has hurried along a change that was already afoot. The workplace will no longer be 'one place', but an ecosystem of spaces that foster a sense of community, safety and security. For business owners, this means a happy, productive workforce. In fact, 62% of respondents to research from Oktra said that the flexibility home-working offers has helped them to focus better.

With this in mind, what role will your office play in the post-pandemic world? Will you need as many desks? Or should you shift your focus to creating shared bases where people can stay connected, engaged and productive? Think easily-reconfigurable environments that complement different working styles. A mixture of focus areas, creative spaces and meeting rooms. Collaboration zones packed with slick tech that allow workers to support their colleagues and clients who are still working from home.

Take a democratic approach to your new office design. What do the teams on the ground need from you? What are they most worried about? Could you put anything in place to reassure them about the post-coronavirus office? Arrange calls, socially-distanced one-to-ones or team video conferences to find out. Or, if you work for a much larger company, consider simple email surveys to gather a broad picture of your staff’s most important concerns and requests. However you approach it, make sure your staff feel heard.

A chance to reset

Re-thinking the workspace doesn’t have to be intimidating. Instead, it could be seen as an opportunity to normalise our new living and working format and even make it a positive turning point.

It’s becoming ever clearer that we need to look beyond the now, and focus on how we can adapt our workspaces for the long-haul.

Innovation is often born out of adversity.

With a new mindset and the right guidance, we can use this time to create workspaces that are even better than the ones that came before.

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