Over 18 months since the outbreak of Covid, the world feels very different in comparison to before. However, with easing restrictions, we find ourselves asking how this will impact the world of work and what does the new office era look like? It is a conversation that has been recurring frequently throughout the pandemic, with The Economist publishing countless articles about how ‘the world of work has been radically changed’. The New York Times concurs with this theme, asking the question: What will be the Future of Offices When Workers Have a Choice? The New Yorker has asked whether the pandemic has transformed the office forever, citing how companies are now attempting to balance what appears to be a permanent shift towards remote work and weighing up the value of a physical workplace.
Bobby Ward, Managing Director at Vorto explores this future:.
Before we imagine what the new office era will look like, we should identify what kind of work environment we wish to create. Most importantly, we need to focus on the wellbeing of employees and the wellbeing of planet Earth. The new office era should seek to promote employees that are motivated, engaged, fulfilled and healthy, whilst fueling economic growth that is not at the expense of the planet’s resources, but rather respects and maintains environmental boundaries of Earth.
What’s more, office providers will need to create a space which will encourage people to spend time there, because recent events have proven that most of us can work remotely. So, what will the commercial realty market do to attract tenants into their buildings?
One thing that office providers can do is concentrate on health. The phrase “health is wealth” may sound cliche, but after the Covid19 crisis, it has never been more true. As we look to the future of what the new office era will look like, we have been asking ourselves whether the new office era will be one that encourages a healthy lifestyle? Companies now have the opportunity to redefine office space and place mental wellbeing, physical health and spiritual connection at the centre of its core through the implementation of meditation pods, running spiritual workshops and hosting yoga classes. Prioritising health begins with creating a company culture that reflects this vision. Therefore, employers should practice creating a culture about setting healthy boundaries when it comes to rest and work. Workers should be encouraged to enjoy their lunch break and take a moment away from being in front of a screen so they can return to their work recharged and therefore be more productive. Our pre-covid lives had us believe that working non-stop, around the clock and through lunch made us better employees. In reality, we are more productive in the long term when we are not overworked. Long gone are the days of show up, get work done, go home, repeat. This narrative is set to be redefined.
Productivity has been a huge topic of discussion over the last year and a half. In the new office era, there could be a shift from CEOs on what kind of environment boosts productivity levels. Is it one that allows their staff members to work remotely but have the option to come into the office anytime? Will we see companies providing their teams with the choice rather than an obligation? What companies will be seen to treat their staff the best? These are all questions that will be answered in a relatively short period as they have to adapt to this ‘WFH’ era.
In addition to creating an environment that fosters productivity, we also need to focus on connection. When talking about connection, we need to highlight the connection between people and their colleagues, but also the company and the work they do. Creating harmony in the workplace can fallback onto creating places that inspire and enable teamwork. We want to be able to create a place that fosters good intentions for our colleagues, whilst also being systems of support and friendship. If we look back over the last eighteen months, the power of community has never been more strongly felt. The workplace has to become a beacon of community for people, where they feel proud to belong.
At the same time, there’s a growing movement of people living a more conscious lifestyle and inevitably this light will continue to grow into the business world. With more and more businesses pledging to the United Nations’ pledge to net zero campaign, companies will become agnostic about growth. Instead, KPIs in the new office era will place being net positive as a priority and benchmarks for success. A key part of this will fallback on how employees are commuting and traveling to work.
One solution for travelling less and to ease the pollution of the planet, could be to put people’s residential space in the same building as their office space. For instance, each building could have a gym, pool, spa, sports court, restaurant, shop, school, urban vegetable garden and a temple for spiritual practices all under one roof. This could be a living manifestation of ‘everything you need under one roof’. This is a growing theme in China where millions of families have quarantined in their homes due to the pandemic. In light of this theme, Digiday published a piece exploring how businesses are contemplating residential units with office real estate, stating that the idea comes from the rise of modern, mixed-use buildings that include both office and residential spaces. This future would mean that both building companies and businesses would explore creating a mixture of work and places to live under one roof for employees.
As we look towards the future of the new office era, it is clear that the pandemic has disrupted our previous model of working and invited us with the opportunity to recreate and redefine our future. In order to move forward, we must look beyond returning back to ‘business’ as usual and instead make decisions that will greatly benefit and enhance both the health of society and the planet.