How Office Space Will Change After a Pandemic

How Office Space Will Change After a Pandemic
John Heimbigner

John Heimbigner

Many countries and states within the U.S. are beginning to ease restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 global pandemic. While many aspects of life are expected to return to normal, the idea of returning to work – and occupying open-floor/shared workspaces – continues to trouble both employers and employees alike. 

For everyone, this crisis has been inconvenient, worrisome, and dangerous. But for companies seeking new office space, it’s been a complete game-changer. Not only do you have to consider the possibility that your company may never return to “normal,” you have to think about the potential for another outbreak. That means planning for adequate social distancing, contract tracing, and strict adherence to cleanliness and safety should you decide to bring your employees back into the workspace. 

Focus on Virtual

It’s not difficult to imagine a fully virtual office environment after COVID-19. As companies have been forced to move to more flexible, adaptable working environments, the reality of working from home has come to roost for companies across every industry.

For both employees and managers, the shift to working remotely has been swift and sudden. But with ever-changing circumstances and the uncertainty of future working situations, it’s important to be vigilant and progressive to keep your company’s continuity of business intact – no matter what happens day-by-day and week-by-week.

If you haven’t already invested in virtual technologies to keep your team connected, communicative, and performing at a high level, now is the time. 

Create Rotating Schedules

Should you decide to return your employees to a physical office environment, it’s important to take account of not only social distancing protocols, but the potential for spreading diseases and contagions within an isolated office.

Many companies take advantage of larger offices to place multiple workers at workstations. With a global pandemic, these seating arrangements become more problematic. Consider shifting your employees on a work-from-home to in-office schedule, rotating the number of days each employee spends in a shared office during each week. Not only will this help limit exposure, but it will provide an office environment in which your workers will feel safe, more comfortable, and less worried about their health and safety. 

Studies also show that, despite the common preconception that remote workers are less productive, there are plenty of benefits to switching to remote work compared to a mandatory in-office structure. According to a 2019 study, remote workers provide an average of 1.4 more working days per month than in-office counterparts and only sit idle for 27 minutes (besides lunch and breaks) compared to 37 minutes for in-office workers. 

Become More Flexible

It should go without saying, but companies who were already reliant (or capable) of providing remote working situations had a leg-up during the quarantine. That means, whether you’re looking for new office space or re-envisioning your working environment, you need to consider the fact that you may not be able to have all of your employees in-office every single day. Thankfully, there are sleek, modern office spaces available to provide reliable and adaptable working environments – in case you’re thinking about a move. 

It may be infrastructure, adding new and improved ways to keep everyone online and connected throughout the day, or simply improving spacing between workstations, but you need to be prepared to make a shift at a moment’s notice. 

No matter your solution, you are beholden to the safety and health of your employees. Unnecessarily exposing them to dangerous conditions in the workplace isn’t a good move for anyone at this point. Make sure your employees feel safe, contained, and protected in a physical working environment before you give the so-called “all clear.”

Safety First

From touchless hand sanitizer stations to readily available disinfectant wipes, the modern office needs to change in light of COVID-19. In addition to covering the basics, it’s important to limit the number of people per office, open floor space, and the entire office in general. There’s also another factor: housekeeping. Most offices have a contract through the property owner to have housekeeping service the building once or twice per week. Increasing the number of housekeeping visits won’t just help sanitize your office space, but help give your employees better peace of mind during the workday. Rather than having housekeeping come during the nights/weekends, try having basic surfaces like bathrooms, door handles, and shared spaces cleaned periodically during the workday. 

Furthermore, progressive companies should consider implementing more advanced cleaning solutions for employees to utilize. 

Electrostatic cleaning solutions provide sanitizing mists onto surfaces, objects, and shared spaces. It’s not cheap, but it’s a good method to defend against contagious particles and help employees feel safe at work.

And if you’re like most companies, your employees use their smartphones throughout the day for both business and personal affairs. Research has shown that most personal smartphones carry a level of bacteria higher than most public toilets, so investing in UV phone sanitizing stations in your company’s entryway will help protect visitors, employees, and housekeeping staff from unintentionally spreading infectious particles. There’s no proof that these devices prevent or offset the spread of COVID-19 specifically, but the more you can do to safeguard your workplace, the better. 

Lean into Technology

From VoIP solutions for routing calls to remote workers to video conferencing apps like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, providing your team with a vast, reliable set of tech solutions will help keep your team agile – whether they’re in the office or not. 

Outside of the virtual realm, you’ll also need to rethink how you’re using your technology in the workplace itself. As social distancing measures come and go, it’s important to consider some very basic elements of a workspace. Rotating shifts and shared workstations bring about questions of how many people are physically touching and using surfaces like desks, keyboards, mice, printers, etc. If you haven’t yet, it may be a good time to provide workers with a stipend to purchase their own equipment they can use at home and bring into the workplace to limit exposure to notoriously dirty office gear. 

No matter the measures you take in this new reality, it’s common knowledge that companies who try to return to “normal” before the pandemic will likely struggle to adapt. While companies throughout the world are quickly shifting to remote or flexible working environments, it’s important to consider the growing pains of that transition and acknowledging that your employees will always factor their happiness at work around their ability to feel safe going forward. Whether truly, 100% remote work will be a consideration in the modern and future workplace remains to be seen, the more your company can do to understand the new reality in which we live, work, and play will pay dividends moving into the future.

John is the VP of Sales at OfficeSpace.com where he leads broker relations and sales. Prior to being VP of Sales, he was the Regional  Director for the company. John has over 25 years of experience working in the commercial real estate industry. Before OfficeSpace.com, John was a commercial real estate broker for the Norman Company in Seattle, WA.

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