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Will Less Be More in the Workplace of the Future?

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Will Less Be More in the Workplace of the Future?

As businesses reconsider their physical footprint while workforces operate remotely, it’s not yet clear whether less will be more when it comes to office square footage in the workplace of the future.

Firms of all kinds are now inclined to consider whether the offices they shut down in the face of the pandemic are the appropriate size for a workforce grown accustomed to conducting business at home. The question on the minds of many leaders is whether or not the size of their office should remain the same after the pandemic; the answer is not yet clear, especially in the absence of concrete data from real life scenarios.

The needs and expectations of employees have shifted for the foreseeable future, and so too should the physical environments they inhabit. To simply turn the lights back on and assume things will appear ‘normal’, or ‘just as before’, seems unreasonable. One safe assumption is that there will likely be a shift back to greater amounts of personal space, along with a reconsideration of shared common space. Assuming that having less people in the office should equal less square foot of office space per person is a simplification of the issue that may prove useful in the short term, but troublesome for the future.

To begin answering the essential question of people and space in the post-pandemic workplace, the following should be actioned:

• Analyze the present state of our virtual office environments

• Survey remote workers to understand the pros and cons of their experience working from home to determine which practice groups are best suited for remote working in future

• Leverage technology, ergonomics and workstyles to assist the development of appropriate budgets for home-office design

• Develop the metrics and test planning best suited to understand the implications of the future state of work

With this information gathered, firms can begin to establish plans for a phased return to work, along with a set of changes and improvements intended to optimize the workplace.

It will be very intriguing to revisit this discussion in future, in order to understand whether our plans for returning to work produced lasting shifts in our collective understanding of the workplace, or if it was just a short-lived blip in human history that we are in a hurry to forget.

Barry Nathan