A Return To The Office

07-09-2020

It has been nearly six months since the start of lockdown, which means many workers have been forced to adjust to a new way of working. Whilst working from home has created some benefits like flexible hours and less transport costs, it is not the time to press pause on offices. An office may not seem a priority right now but workers will always require a space in which they can come together to collaborate, socialise, and continue to develop within their careers. In previous blogs, we assessed why the office remains essential to businesses, evaluating what an office space can offer staff through expert space planning and design. We also evaluated the importance of providing workplace essentials like dedicated hand washing facilities and promoting a one-way flow of traffic and how workplace design needs to consider the safety and wellbeing of employees.

Although working from home is generally good for focus tasks, it is not feasible for everyone. The role of the workspace will need to adapt and evolve to accommodate training, collaboration, socialising and building a company culture, something which the home lacks. So, getting rid of an office completely would have shocking consequences for both employees and employers for multiple reasons:

Lack of space and appropriate equipment

Ending the working day with a hunched back and a crooked neck is sadly becoming the reality for many homeworkers. Balancing your laptop on the bed or sitting at a dining table does not provide your back with adequate support unlike most ergonomic office chairs and desks. One homeworker from BBC’s article (2020) says working from home will leave a “whole generation of people with spinal problems”. [2] A well-designed office facilitates these health needs through properly designed furniture and with more space for dual monitor set-up, it improves staff productivity.

Premium office chairs provide excellent comfort and ergonomic support. Seat height and depth adjustment, adjustable arms, lumbar support and are all features that make a chair truly ergonomic.

Equally, if your job contains confidential information, you are not able to sit near other people in case data is wrongly disclosed. If you live in shared accommodation, you are not left with much choice than to stay cooped up in your room which is not a healthy working environment long term.

Inadequate Technology

If you rent and house-share with other people, it can be very distracting. As well as the noise and cramped setting, there is the other issue of sharing Wi-Fi. Home Wi-Fi is not designed for business use, if everyone is trying to use it at the same time it can cause delays, is expensive to run and results in miscommunication between your team.

For quick day-to-day queries, the office provides a space where the team can communicate and problem solve together, without the hindrance of a frozen computer screen.

Balancing work life and home life

Living at home often means that the boundaries between work and home-life become intertwined. Without having the distinction of travelling to a different space, working hours can become longer and less breaks are taken. This can make us feel more tired, burnt out and consequently has negative effects on family life.

Working at home also poses the challenge of working without your colleagues surrounding you. For creative companies, this seems to be an even greater challenge as collaboration is essential for group project work.

Providing spaces that are accessible, multi-functional and vibrant are essential for the ever-evolving office

Wellbeing

Working at home alone without your colleagues can have a negative affect on your mental wellbeing. Not only can it increase anxiety levels, the lack of social interaction can make you more distracted, agitated and generally feeling low. Those lunchtime meet-ups together and quick trips to the coffee machine help build a support network around you. Particularly for young workers, in BBC’s (2020) article  Matthew Hammond, chairman of the Midlands region for PwC says, “We have colleagues who may be working at the end of their bed or on a return unit in their kitchen. That is not sustainable or healthy for the longer term. As employers we invest a huge amount in providing the right environment, the right seating, the right technology so people can be at their most productive.” [3]

Similarly, as previously discussed, working from home blurs the boundaries between work life and homelife which can make it harder for the brain to mentally switch off after working hours. This results in the home not really feeling like a place of comfort and relaxation anymore. Therefore, employees should be given the choice of working at an office or at home and not be forced to adjust their home to accommodate work life.

Surrounding Business

The lack of people working in offices is also having a detrimental impact on surrounding businesses. In BBC’s recent local article in Ipswich, food traders like cafes and eateries are suffering one of the biggest consequences of the pandemic: less walk-in trade. Having little to no lunch time rush means businesses are struggling to stay open, and with the high streets already struggling before lockdown, it is important to encourage a culture of office working to help local businesses.  A lack of offices also affects the workers who maintain the buildings like cleaners, site managers, receptionists etc.

Conclusion

Therefore, despite what the news might say, it is not the death of the office. Cities have previously repurposed themselves in the past and shall continue to adapt to the ways in which offices must cater for these important social interactions. Consequently, now more than ever, there is a call for well-designed and flexible offices.

If you would like to get in touch about your office plans, contact us here today.

Sources:

[1] ‘Coronavirus: Should Ipswich office workers be heading back?’, 2020, BBC

[2] ‘Coronavirus: Why I hate working from home’, 2020, BBC 

[3] ‘No plan for a return to the office for millions of staff’, 2020, BBC