Time and again, history has shown that national or global events fundamentally change our society and economy and there’s little doubt that the pandemic of 2020 will be any different. We’re still adapting to many changes in the way we work and stay in contact with each other. Some changes have been staggeringly swift, such as the speed at which we are taking up digital communications. Some changes may be slower, but no less dramatic for it.
A shift away from the office
When city centres wound down during the lockdowns, the ‘head office’ hub that has been at the core of many businesses became dispersed. As businesses strive to build this back up, they are now having to adapt to a more ‘decentralised’ model. This is, in part, due to many workers expressing a strong desire to keep working from home when possible. The challenge is now to find ways around the fragmentation and keep businesses unified.
The working landscape has seen a huge amount of change. As well as businesses seeing their teams scattered, big towns and cities have also seen a major shift. Here in the UK, we’ve witnessed a rise in the number of people moving out to more remote and less congested areas. Back in June 2020, the careers advisory service Escape the City reported that the number of job seekers looking for jobs outside of London had doubled compared to 2019. As well as this, far fewer people are commuting daily. Many of us crave a ‘hybrid’ model of working, offering flexibility so that we can have the opportunity to create a blend of home and office work.
Flexi-working needs flexi-space
The future of big office spaces may still be uncertain, but the need for flexible solutions certainly means that workplaces will be adapted to suit the needs of a new ‘flexi- workforce’. Senior executives are still deciding how best to use their existing offices, with a view to keeping them for staff meetings and social get-togethers, rather than the traditional nine to five. Some companies have taken the opportunity to set up satellite offices outside of the big cities, in the suburbs and smaller towns. Many businesses are looking for, or have been forced into finding cheaper rents and leases.
Flexible workspaces will be crucial in providing a service for those companies looking for versatility, be it shorter leases and cheaper rates. Many co-workspaces also offer a mixture of resources as well as traditional office space, ranging from breakout areas, communal kitchens, quiet spaces, gyms, event spaces and much more. Now, more than ever, we value comfortable spaces that take into account the wellbeing of workers – an important priority, currently being embraced by many businesses.
A decentralised future
So, as we look to the future, we’re sure to see a range of decentralised working models begin to take shape. This will mean businesses adapting to the needs and wants of their staff. Although many of us are keen to continue remote working in some capacity, we will need to maintain a sense of camaraderie and to feel connected to work. The ability to provide a suitable space for face-to-face engagement will ensure that workforces feel involved and stay motivated, but on a mutually beneficial level that works for both staff and management.
Whether business leaders decide to adapt their office space or forge a new one, there’s no doubt that these hybrid working ‘hubs’ will mean that we’re sure to see a very different working landscape emerging, with a huge variety of solutions instead of ‘traditional’ office space with rows of desks and a meeting room. The most successful companies will be the ones who embrace the change. This might mean taking the opportunity to redesign an office around a team, creating the ultimate place for them to collaborate and perform to their best. Only when staff are in a safe and enjoyable space can they be productive and achieve great things.