The office of the future: What will workplaces look like in a post-pandemic world?
December 1 2020 - What will offices look like in the "new normal"? Digital marketing agency Glass Digital recently looked at the latest Google search trends to try to predict how workplaces might look in a post-pandemic future. In this post, Managing Director Bridie Gallagher shares some of the insights they discovered.
This year, the pandemic has forced the closure of office spaces across the country, and the government continues to advise that anyone who can work from home effectively should do so. But what will happen when staff can eventually return to the office?
After such a turbulent year, many are predicting that the way we live and work may never return to the "normal" we knew before the pandemic hit. For one thing, remote workers may be less willing to return to offices if they don't feel itís completely safe to do so, and many may even have decided that they prefer working remotely some or all of the time. So, does that mean employers will need to update their offices in order to encourage staff back into the workplace? And, if so, what forms will these changes take?
In this post, I'll be exploring some of the possibilities that could become a reality for many businesses in a post-pandemic world, from contactless technology and hygiene stations, to outside areas.
Safety first with hygiene solutions
The pandemic has made both employers and staff much more aware of how easily viruses can be spread in an office environment. As such, I think one thing we'll definitely start to see more of in the coming years will be high-tech hygiene solutions. Whether COVID-19 continues to be a threat, or employers just want to protect staff from colds and other contagious illnesses, hygiene will likely become a top priority in many workplaces, and new equipment and tech can help facilitate this.
Judging from some of the phrases that people have been searching on Google lately, these updates have already started to happen. For instance, searches for "hygiene station" have increased by 320% between August 2019 and the same month of this year. Additionally, searches for "antimicrobial material" and "desk shield" are both up by a staggering 3,100% for the same period, while searches for "air purifier" have gone up by 22%. So, it seems pretty clear that the office of the future will be well-equipped with lots of hygiene features to help keep staff as safe as possible.
New technology will play a key role
There's evidence to show that interest in the latest hands-free technology is increasing, with Google searches for "voice activation" increasing by 321% between August 2019 and August 2020. When used in an office context, voice-activated technology could be used to make everything from light switches to heating and air con systems completely hands-free, helping to reduce the spread of germs and keep everyone safe.
Contactless tech could become a common feature in office kitchens and cafeterias, too. Google searches for "automated water dispenser" grew by 271% between August 2019 and the same month of this year, while "smart coffee machines" became 48% more popular in the same period. Clearly, the future of the workplace is increasingly hands-free.
Outdoor working and commuting could become the norm
The pandemic has made many of us reconsider our relationship with the outside world. Now that we're all spending a lot more time indoors, it's becoming increasingly clear just how important it is to have access to outside space, such as gardens and parks, and how time spent outside can improve our mental health.
Now, it seems as though employers might be looking at ways to help their staff spend a bit more time outside during the working day, too. Searches for "outdoor office space" grew by 520% between August 2019 and August 2020, showing that a number of employers are potentially considering adding outdoor areas to their office spaces. As it's believed that the virus is less likely to spread in outside spaces, this could be a possible solution to help limit the spread of germs, as well as boost the mental health of staff.
Additionally, the commute to work could start to look very different. Searches for "bike to work" rose by 85% from August 2019-August 2020, showing that commuters might be keen to get some extra fresh air on their way to work, or just want to avoid crowded trains and buses. So, we could see offices providing additional bike storage facilities to help accommodate this new way of commuting.
The pandemic will spur office renovations and improvements
With the majority of office workers continuing to work from home, now is the perfect opportunity for employers across the country to overhaul their workspaces to make them happier and healthier places to work. Additionally, many workers have started to become quite accustomed to the perks of home working, so I think lots of employers will be keen to update their offices to make them the most pleasant environments they can possibly be. As a consequence, itís likely returning staff will be greeted by a whole host of updates and new features designed to show that communal office spaces can be safe, productive, sociable, and rewarding places to work.
I think it's very likely that the pandemic will shape the way employers design their office spaces in the future. In particular, we can expect to see an increased focus on hygiene, more hands-free technology, and changes to accommodate new ways of working, like outdoor areas.