“From our own studies, we can see that previously people spent 70% of their working hours carrying out work processes, and 30% of their time collaborating with colleagues,” The Adecco Group CEO Alain Dehaze said. “Now this will be reversed, with people coming into the office to collaborate, work on projects, creativity, etc, with work processes done in a remote way, eliminating travel time, boosting productivity and enhancing quality of life.”
Changing office use in the future may have financial implications for the employer as well as the employee. Employers may be tempted to offset pandemic-related losses by reducing their fixed costs (like office spaces), especially if employees don’t always come into the office.
However, as the world shifts into a post-pandemic reality, more office space may be required for a similar number of employees to maintain a safe social distance. This distance is not just to reopen safely and maintain social distancing, but to provide the flexibility that the future office will need to offer a fluid and flexible workforce.
So what will the future office space look like?
As more and more office spaces reopen around the world, the initial focus will be on keeping employees safe and assuaging their fears. In a BBC interview, Albert De Plazaola, global strategy director at design firm Unispace, pointed out that while we have lived with the flu for many years, this is the first time our generation has experienced a pandemic.
“We're now hyperaware of health risks, whether real or imagined, and employers are hypersensitive about the potential for liability if people get sick at work,” De Plazoala said.
All organisations will need to find their own way to build a better, more flexible future of work and future office space for their workers. Digital technology has a crucial role to play in making the environment flexible enough to allow different spaces to be used for different purposes according to people’s needs, whether that involves involve, work, wellbeing, or upskilling.
At the Adecco Group headquarters in Zurich, workers will return to find a vastly different space than the one they left with more social space and more spaces to interact.
Some organisations like Salesforce, Spotify and Twitter have taken flexibility to the extreme by allowing their employees to shift to remote working permanently, from home or from anywhere in the world.
A change in how employees work will also mean a change to Salesforce’s physical office spaces. The company has 19 offices in North America alone, including the recently completed Salesforce Tower in San Francisco, a 1,070-foot-high skyscraper that cost $1.1 billion to build. Going forward, president and chief people office of Salesforce Brent Hyder has said that offices will be redesigned as “community hubs” will collaboration and breakout spaces instead of rows of desks.
Architects across the world are tackling the question of the post-pandemic office space as well. Montalba Architects, for example, envisions a paradigm shift towards a more resilient and flexible office space hub in place of permanent, large open-air office spaces.