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Is the Future of the Office ‘Hybrid’?

January 2021

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As companies look towards the future, a blend of remote working and office time seems to be the answer.

We are once again in lockdown for the foreseeable future and ‘working from home’ fatigue is setting in. When we began this unprecedented journey in March 2020, spring was on its way and the weather was warm. The joy of not having to do the boring commute to the office was a novelty and it allowed us to spend more time with our families and less of our hard earned money. However, nearly a year on and most of us have had enough. How we long for the office banter, lunches with colleagues, the drink after work. How we long to be with other people.

So what can we predict for the latter part of 2021? It goes without saying that until the vaccine is rolled out we will continue to work from home. Hopefully though, we will be able to start returning to work this summer. But in what capacity will that be? Even if we do miss being in the office, we probably won’t want to be there five days a week. It is also likely that we will experience a natural fear of being in crowded places, even after the vaccine has been administered.

Businesses will still have to provide a Covid safe working environment, especially in the early days of the vaccine. The World Economic Forum recommends that reopened offices carry no greater that 30% occupancy. It’s likely that larger companies will adopt a phased approach, implementing rota systems where certain members of staff can head into the office on designated days.  A survey by Simply Communicate, a community for in-house communications found that half of their respondents feel their future working life will be a balance of home and office-based working. Only 2% want everyone back in the office all the time.  In a separate Linkedin poll of 45,000 people, less than a quarter indicated a preference to work only from home. Three quarters said they would prefer to work from either the office or in a home/office blend.

We can reasonably predict that the future of the working office has changed forever. And it is technology that has allowed us to make this change. Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella declared that “We have seen two years worth of digital transformation in two months”. The crisis has arguably fast-forwarded the ‘future of work’ by five to ten years. The era of hybrid work is well and truly here. This tends to mean more autonomy to employees to fit work around the rest of their lives. Physical presence might be required at work for in-office meetings, team building exercises and project start-ups but not necessarily for other work. This change to hybrid working will require changes to the office layout. It is far more likely we will see communal areas that can be booked in advance for use. The traditional individual desk is likely to be replaced with a hot desk system. Larger offices can be replaced with smaller working places as companies are unlikely to be at full capacity in the future as staff work on a rotation system. It is, however, almost certain that most companies will retain physical offices. But major changes, as we have not seen in a generation are afoot.

If you are considering making changes to your existing office space, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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