Do offices have a future?
The role of traditional offices has changed over time – no one had any doubts about it before the outbreak. The rapid development of coworking zones, the growing popularity of the flexible and remote working models along with new communication technologies have initiated the process of evolution. The COVID-19 effect gave this change a new pace. Now that the epidemic has already made significant changes in many areas of the economy, the question arises: do office spaces make sense at all?
Offices as we know them
The vast majority of organizations have previously operated in one of two models of office arrangement – closed or open space. Each of them has strengths and weaknesses. The closed layout provides more privacy, employees are not exposed as much to noise, and it is relatively easy to plan space for the needs of individual teams. The basic downside is its low efficiency – in this layout, up to twice as much space is required per employee compared to an open space setup. This means higher rental, design and installation costs (for example: air conditioning and ventilation). Communication between teams is also more difficult.
Open space uses the area in a much more efficient way, reducing surface demand and optimising the finishing costs. Everyone (usually including managers) work in one space, which promotes rapid exchange of information and helps integrate employees. The problem is limited privacy and noise. It is also a challenge to protect customer data, especially in the context of GDPR requirements.
Hybrid model – design space
Over time, employers began to see that neither variants were fully satisfactory. In recent years, business models has also changed significantly. In the realities of an ever-increasing pace of work, organizations have switched to a design model that promotes rapid responses to changes in the business environment. Arranging an office that allows you to work efficiently in such an environment has become a priority.
–The optimal solution is the design space – a hybrid that combines the advantages of closed and open space layouts. The surface is arranged in a flexible way, using modular elements. This on the one hand means optimizing the use of the surface, on the other – the possibility of its quick rearrangement if necessary. Modules vary in size, but are repetitive and compatible with each other, and workstations are standardized. You can easily create a functional work space tailored to the needs of individual teams – explains Maciej Ozdoba, Associate Director at Nuvalu Polska.
In hybrid offices, telephone booths allow you to make confidential conversations, and the relaxation areas around the office can be quickly built with new stations if necessary. The whole is connected by a semi-open system in which there is a division into sections, but there are also a whole range of publicly available facilities and common areas, facilitating integration. Good working conditions are ensured by the installation of acoustic panels and good quality lighting, adapted to the location and functions of the workstation.
–The necessary changes in the organisation of work related to the COVID-19 epidemic have proved that flexible workplaces are best suited to such challenges due to its flexibility. Modular areas and standardization of positions allow teams to be divided in a way that ensures their working conditions in accordance with the principles of social distance and safety. Companies that work in hybrid offices will return to stationary mode of operation as soon as possible – adds Maciej Ozdoba.
Use all resources
Why do we have offices when we can work at a distance? It’s not that simple. No research results have yet been made available to determine the real performance of remote workers during lockdown, but it is likely to be significantly lower.
–Working from home can have a lot of distractions, but also has significantly lower ergonomics and limits the ability to build relationships, exchange thoughts or insights within the team. The remote model will therefore not replace the office, rather it will complement it in a practical way. You can expect an increase in the popularity of hot desk concepts, that is, publicly available workplaces; however, they will not replace the traditional arrangement, in which the majority of employees generally have their own workstations. Such a model is more efficient, also in flexible offices. Companies will increasingly use flex surfaces, i.e. coworking zones and serviced offices. This solution is particularly attractive for organizations that fear long-term commitments and those that often change the size of the team depending on the projects carried out, says the Nuvalu expert.
The modern concept of the office should use all available resources. The foundation of the functioning of the company should be a modern flexible space, supported by various forms of organization of remote work and the offer of coworking zone operators. The combination of these elements maximizes cost efficiency and allows you to adapt the solutions adopted to the specific needs of your organization.
Convince employees and prepare the process well
Planning for the future office is a process that lasts from a few months to several years. A key element of this puzzle are the employees – they need to be convinced of the legitimacy of the proposed changes, in order to feel on board with the decision. Often in such circumstances there is natural resistance and event resentment, which is why good communication is especially important. And the stakes are high – companies that invest in a modern office of the future will gain an important tool for acquiring and maintaining the best talent in the labour market.
Maciej Ozdoba, Associate Director at Nuvalu Polska
Last Updated on February 4, 2021 by Łukasz