Across the globe companies are struggling with deciding on how to formulate their office space plans from pre-COVID-era footprint to a post-COVID-era world. On one side, they’ve heard that many employees want to work remotely on a permanent basis, others want a hybrid arrangement and still others want to go back to the office 100%. Within the context of a year of remote work, the fact that many employees still have children at home during the day for now, and the reality that many employees chose to move during the pandemic, it will take extreme creativity and flexibility to determine what to do next and when.
If you don’t have sufficient data, it’s immensely difficult to understand which buildings and spaces are most needed, which can be vacated and what configurations make sense and how to keep everyone safe until the critical masses of people have been vaccinated worldwide. Our clients have looked for us to help guide them through this time. We recommend that our clients consider four key factors in redesigning their buildings and workspaces of the future:
- Monitor and measure each employee or visitor’s temperature upon entering buildings - Companies pursuing hybrid strategies or beginning to track which spaces are used and how can leverage existing FDA-compliant temperature measurement technology at a minimum at their entrances to instill confidence in their efforts to keep employees and visitors safe until the pandemic has subsided worldwide or vaccination rates increase.
- Decide on an appropriate mask wearing policy and automated method to ensure vaccination status - They can also decide whether or not to continue using masks at work based on vaccination rates in their communities or other factors or to follow the CDC guidelines and rely on the honesty of their employees and visitors. Regardless of the decision, they should look for technologies to be able to efficiently track mask usage or if no mask is detected, leverage workflows or surveys to invite employees or guests to upload a photo or scan their vaccination cards to ensure everyone’s health and safety and compliance with federal, state or local requirements as needed.
- Understand which buildings are being used, where people congregate, what types of rooms are being used/desired - While some badge access systems offer some data points regarding entrances/exits using badges, many companies currently lack data about how their facilities are being used and how they will be used in a post-pandemic or endemic era. Luckly, there are numerous technologies in the market that can help with occupancy of buildings and conference rooms, and social-distancing technology can also help companies understand how and where people congregate and where they collaborate.
- Evaluate remote workers’ collaboration needs first - Instead of returning to enabling in-office environments first and expecting remote workers to just deal with not being able to see white boards or participate effectively in conference room discussions, companies should design for the remote workers’ needs first and then determine the needed technologies, spaces, and training of both remote and in-office workers so that they will collaborate better and be more productive. This also means that if in-office or hybrid office employees can also participate if they’re working from home for a few days as well.
According to a recent McKinsey article, Reimagining the office and work/life after COVID-19, “Rent, capital costs, facilities operations, maintenance, and management make real estate the largest cost category outside of compensation for many organizations, ...it often amounts to 10 to 20 percent of total personnel-driven expenditures.” Instead of just downsizing office space with broad strokes, there’s a need to right-size office space a lot more creatively, and this will allow companies to save money on real estate expenses and enable collaboration in person, where it makes sense with the right safety and collaborative approach based on actual needs.
Let us know if you’re interested in learning more about how we’ve helped numerous Fortune 1000 companies to develop and future-proof their office spaces.