You must have sat in a reception or waiting area of an office or workplace on the past that didn’t strike the right chord or leave you feeling enthused at the meeting or appointment ahead. Perhaps there was a rip in the seat covers or the fabric wasn’t overly clean? Or perhaps the furniture was scratched or scuffed with out of date reading material, dying plants and a water machine that was empty! This is not the memory that you want any visitors to your workplace to have. 
With Schools and Universities returning, we are also pleased and encouraged to see a slowly but surely style return to offices and workplaces. We are pleased for many reasons as this could see a boost for the economy and the knock on effect this will have, signs of a more positive outlook and attitude and the hopeful lift for local and small businesses too. 
So what next for offices and workspaces? 
“Freedom day” as it has so been called is here, so what does this mean for a return to the office? Will people be going back if they haven’t already, or will it be business as usual or something in between? 
Returning to work? 
More than half (52%) of British people currently working from home say they are ready to return to the office, with the typical office worker wanting to go into the office between two and three days per week, according to a survey for facilities management firm Mitie. More than a third (35%) are concerned their offices are not Covid-secure and 60% think their employer needs to improve the office environment to prevent staff becoming ill in the future. The article for Personnel Today looks at 14 things employees want in their workplace and the list includes more space between workstations, reduced meeting room capacity, reduced office capacity, hand sanitiser everywhere and better ventilation. Read the article in full.  
Agile working is all about creating flexible and functional spaces to work and be productive. The concept behind agile working is that work is an activity we do, rather than a place we go. Do you agree with this? We wrote a blog on this about a year ago. It is about the cohesion of people, tech, processes, surroundings. Research says 36% of employees would prefer agile working over a pay rise. What it isn’t to be confused with is flexible working ... 
A new poll from MoreySmith (as featured in Mix Interiors) has revealed that half of British employees want specially designed areas in the office for socialising if they are to stop working from home. The survey of 1017 UK adults (in full or part time work) commissioned by the leading designers asked the public about their new expectations of work, following 14 months of COVID restrictions and working from home. 
This has been a trend for a while now of offices and working space wanting and demanding to be more homely in look and feel. Of course the space still needs to remain functional and productive to work in, but the social aspect of working is prevalent still. Another Mix Interiors article from April suggested that companies needed to take steps to consider what the future office looks like. It won’t be pre-pandemic in style and layout, but it will need to incorporate new ways of working. The article and other articles on this subject also say that wellbeing in the workplace is becoming more vital and needs to be factored into the work setting. 
So, how can working spaces and breakout areas be designed for open plan working as well as space for those needing privacy? 
Creating a safe, protective working environment has never been more important and screens are a great way of preventing infection spread of COVID-19 and offer protection to your staff and customers. Here is some usual advice from HSE  
“Air quality will impact profits and productivity”. Improving air quality is not just the right thing to do in terms of public health but will also have a significant impact on business profitability and productivity, according to the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA). “The pandemic has thrust the issue of indoor air quality (IAQ) into the spotlight, and this is an opportunity to change things for the long-term good of the country and the economy.” 
Further to this, a poll has highlighted that contact with other people, for example, when social distancing is breached, remains the most concerning route for transmission, cited by half the population. More than one in four (26%) of Britons are worried about airborne transmission, according to research by services group, Rentokil Initial. 
The word hybrid suggests a crossover of things or a mixture of things and in the case of the workplace and the current pandemic, it refers to how we may be working. Will we be all from home? Will we all be back in the office or workplace? Or will, as some are suggesting and also pushing for, be working in a hybrid fashion of part home and part office? Known as hybrid working. 
So what might a hybrid workplace look like? 
Some time back, around 70% of office or office space were open plan. Is yours? Was yours? 
Could the return to the office see more open plan spaces or could it see closed off sections with doors, screens and other layout options? ... 
These words were said by Abraham Lincoln when he became the 16th president, which was a long time ago, but these words are still very relevant today. At this current time, whilst the end is hopefully in sight, we don’t know when we will be back to normal and what this new normal will be. 
Talking with customers and colleagues, it seems some are working from home for the first time or back to working from home after Christmas and some are going into the office on a rota, part time or skeleton staff basis. According to The Telegraph, one in four people are to work from home permanently with companies planning for ongoing change to employment patterns even after the pandemic is over as flexible working becomes commonplace. And according to TechRadar and their research, 75% of UK office workers would accept, or have accepted, a pay cut in exchange for a fully remote role. What are your thoughts? What are you doing in your business or workplace? 
 
So, how can we help you? And help get you and your teams through this period? 
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