RLB Partner, Paul Beeston, revisits his thought leadership article around workplace trends in light of COVID-19 asking what the role of the workplace will be and whether the trends identified earlier will still be relevant in a post-virus world.
My article on Workplace Trends was posted just before the world changed somewhat.
Much of the UK business world is now working from a sofa, kitchen, study or garden shed! Looking forward, will the trends I set out early in March change in a post COVID-19 era, when everyone is used to working from home (WFH)? Here I set out the trends from my March post and how they may have changed.
Trend #1: a focus on balanced productivity for people and property
I previously argued that the initial moves to agile working tended to be pursuing savings in property costs. Undoubtedly businesses will now be focused on that. Whilst we will have all got used to Video Conferencing and virtual meetings; learnt how to behave and conduct them, we will still crave the interaction of people. Personal interaction and collaboration through face to face workshops and meetings do produce something different. I think COVID-19 will bring into sharper focus the balance of productivity for people and property. We are now all experiencing how effective WFH can be, but we will expect more productivity from the physical spaces our businesses occupy. Yes – trend #1 will not only survive the Pandemic but thrive from a return to normality.
Trend #2: using design to express culture, brand and the very DNA of an organisation.
In my earlier post I outlined how design is being used to express a brand and culture and engage clients in their office environments. This has to survive a post COVID-19 era; whilst many businesses have turned into virtual organisations, I have seen many social media posts of offices with a “I miss this place” sentiment. Whilst we may get used to customer engagement away from our offices (in a virtual world) I think the physical presence will need to be more expressive of the culture of an organisation as a result. Yes – trend #2 also survives.
Trend #3: keep it flexible – the ‘curated’ workplace
My original post identified the need for ultimate flexibility and evolution of the space. Business needs change quickly and working practices are changing quicker now than in previous generations. Certainly, in the last month working practices have evolved. For most in the space of a week. Some workplaces have changed from offices to production facilities for Key Worker PPE. Others to facilitate essential functions for socially distancing teams. The speed, extent and significance of change just got dialled up to maximum. Organisations will recognise the need for agility and the “curated” workplace now seems more apt than ever. Yes – trend #3 also gets a big boost.
Trend #4: ethical design
My article written in March spoke to the adoption of Social Value and sustainability. I identified the symbiotic nature of successful offices and the indigenous community. Through COVID-19 there have been some inspiring moments of community and appreciation of social value. From the NHS volunteers, to Clapping for our Carers and the simple local acts of kindness and appreciation to neighbours. I think COVID-19 may rebalance corporate entities to be more engaged and tuned in to Social Value and an ethical design and operation of property. Trend#4 also pervades.
COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on all sectors of the worldwide business community. Tenants, developers and investors will all be aware of this. But a period of WFH does not spell the end of the corporate workplace. Workplace design trends in a post COVID era may become more concentrated and lead to more productive, successful, ethical and culturally reflective office environments.