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2021 Workplace Trends – Long and Short-Term Changes from Covid-19

Planning for life after Covid-19 has been no easy task for businesses. There are many factors which influence trends in workspace design and workplace culture.

What is most complicated for employers is working out what new trends in the workplace environment are temporary and which will be around for the long term. The common denominator in all of talks we’ve had is work from home fatigue and how businesses will react to their employees wanting to get back to normal sooner than later.

Talking to clients across all sectors, a picture is starting to build of what Return To Work looks like short-term and how it might look further down the line.

Short-term Workspace Changes

Plexi-Glass Barriers

Plexiglass barriers continue to pop up in reception areas, office cafeterias, and hair and nail salons, which raises the question: As we all begin to emerge from our pandemic isolation and work from home fatigue, will we find ourselves still separated from each other?

We can all agree that seeing them in places that were once void of this kind of barrier is a bit strange. Still, it’s likely here to stay for a while.

Learn more about all of our re-opening services, including hygiene plexi-guards here. 

Spacing between desks

We are seeing a lot of businesses remove desks to increase space – but many are putting those desks in storage rather than throwing them away. It suggests they see the current re-design as a temporary measure.

There needs to be a sensible level of response in terms of office layout, too. But people are fearful of the virus and as a consequence  short term measures must be put in place to allay their fears and get them back into the workplace safely.

Work from Home

There have been a lot of articles already about the death of the office, suggesting more and more people will work from home in future having done so without problems during the lockdown.

However, not all businesses share that prediction. Many believe that homeworking will stay for the remainder of the year but will morph into flexible working after that – an environment in which people spend some time in the office and some at home.

As organizations reconstruct how they work and identify what can be done remotely, they can make decisions about which roles must be carried out in person, and to what degree. Roles can be reclassified into employee segments by considering the value that remote working could deliver:

  • fully remote (net positive value-creating outcome)
  • hybrid remote (net neutral outcome)
  • hybrid remote by exception (net negative outcome but can be done remotely if needed)
  • on site (not eligible for remote work)

Closure of collaborative and creative workspace

On-trend workspace design until now was aimed at introducing areas where people would meet and collaborate in the office. Small pods, for instance, where there was a big screen and a cozy atmosphere to inspire ideas and creativity. That’s going to change. It’s certainly gone for this year. But don’t bank on it disappearing all together. Some designers believe people’s attitudes will change within a year and once we can give our family members a hug, people will feel more confident in the office, providing Covid-19 is under control.

Long-Term Workspace Changes

The end of hotdesking

We’ve spent many years getting everyone used to agile working and hotdesking, but with one eye permanently on the next pandemic it’s hard to see that trend surviving.

Many businesses may go back to a much more fixed position. Unless you have a cleaning regime in which every keyboard and every mouse is cleaned every few hours, then agile working does not work in the current conditions.

Protecting against future pandemic through design – and location

When businesses go through tough times, they inevitably plan to ensure they can survive future upheavals. This happens in recessions, for instance, when companies centralize and de-centralize. When they are growing, they all want to be in the City offices. When things crash, they migrate  out to cheaper destinations.

As the biggest fear right now for employees is public transport, over the next few years you might see companies come away from the big multi-story buildings and move to business parks where people can drive to instead of taking the public transport. Offices where you can use the stairs instead of elevators will be more popular, too.

Sustainable, Recycling and Disposale Office Relocation Services

Refurbishment of existing office furniture

Re-using and redistributing office furniture is a trend that we see continuing as businesses look to equip employees with better furniture and equipment when they work at home.

Crucially, businesses remain liable for the health and safety of employees even when they work outside of the office. We have seen major clients allowing staff to purchase home office setups and claim this back.

Re-acclimating an onsite workforce will present an enormous change management challenge for executives, who will need a communication strategy that can help employees who are returning to the workplace, as well as those who continue to work remotely, embrace a shared vision of what comes next.

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Moving IT equipment can be the most challenging and riskiest part of any office move. Our step-by-step essential IT checklist will help you stay ahead of your office relocation by thorough planning and management.

Across the country, states have developed pathways toward reopening their economies and are implementing protocols for businesses to reopen and for employees to return to workplaces.

How does a business stay operational while keeping employees and customers safe and preventing new COVID-19 outbreaks? Many companies are starting to implement more technology into their everyday work life. From apps on mobile phones to control lighting, temperature and AV equipment, to doors and elevators that open with corporate badges.

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