While social distancing restrictions in the UK have now largely been lifted, a mass return to the workplace has not been as speedily implemented as some had predicted. There are positive signs that the majority of people are now coming back to the office, albeit in a reduced capacity. Caution has largely been the reason for the slow uptake, as well as employee push back, with almost 50% of UK employers stating they will now offer some sort of flexibility scheme with regards to remote working. This shift in working patterns now raises probably the most pertinent question within our industry: what will the office landscape look like in the foreseeable future?
The overriding consensus from industry experts, landlords and just about every media outlet in the UK currently is that the shift will be towards smaller and more collaborative workspaces. This view was perfectly summarised in a recent Financial Times article: “Already bosses are talking about wanting less but better space, equipped for meetings, events and “Zoom Rooms”. Simply providing banks of desks for people to answer phones and send emails feels increasingly out of date. People will want to socialise, collaborate and feel the excitement of a busy workspace — the office is far from dead — but buildings should be calibrated.”
But, is this widely held opinion actually what is happening, or even going to happen? Well, let me be the first give an alternative (and less trendy) viewpoint on this topic: “The office is, and should always be, a place of contrast to the home.” Now, while it can’t be ignored more and more people are attempting to create productive ‘workspaces’ within their homes, the reality is they’ll never be able to successfully replicate ‘the workplace’ as we know it – and rightly so! People crave the structure of a traditional office, one in which desking still lies at the heart. These environments simply cannot be mirrored at home and similarly they shouldn’t be eradicated from the workplace entirely either. The need for contrast within people’s work and home life balance has become even more necessary in this current climate as many employees are now being afforded the luxury of working from home regularly, meaning there will be a greater demand for the clearer work distinctions that the traditional office model provides. For decades the popular phrase: “Don’t take your work home with you”, has rung true for many. However, it now seems a more fitting evolution of this saying may be: “Don’t make your work your home too.”
This notion of retaining these classic elements, and not blurring the lines, is one we are already witnessing first hand. Over 500 jobs have been quoted and installed by our team since the last lockdown ended in March and each of those jobs has continued to heavily feature banks of desks somewhere in the plans. So, while it’s fair to say collaborative workspaces are without a doubt a welcome addition to the DNA of the evolving office landscape, the seemingly universal belief that the office desk will become a post-Covid casualty seems premature to say the least.”
Managing Director, Techo.