When the corporate world has taken such an unfamiliar dive into a realm of masks, sanitising stations and social distancing, it’s not surprising that some employees refrain from returning to their desks. Although life certainly feels like it’s on its way back to normality, the reality is that we are now living in a state of uncertainty. In our lifetime we have never experienced such a stark shift in our way of life and our way of thinking. Covid has proved that the systems of community we live by are not permanent and if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that human-beings don’t like change and we definitely don’t like to be apart!
“Our Campuses have been at the heart of our Google Community”
Arguably, in terms of lifestyle, Covid has affected the business sector the most distinctly. For larger businesses that house thousands of employees like Google or Facebook, the task of adapting to a more Covid conscious world has proven a monstrous task. Logistically & culturally. A business like Facebook for instance, who pride themselves on community and connectivity slashed a huge portion of employees from their office spaces. The CEO of Google, Sundar Pichai, said, “For more than 20 years, our employees have been coming to the office to solve interesting problems — in a cafe, around a whiteboard or during a pickup game of beach volleyball or cricket. Our campuses have been at the heart of our Google community and the majority of our employees still want to be on campus some of the time.”
Screen technology, a blessing or a curse?
We are lucky that technology has allowed us to stay somewhat connected during this strange time, however is it really healthy to only talk to each other through a screen? In 2020 The Independent released an article claiming the average adult will spend 34 years of their life looking at screens! I don’t know about you, but that is a dizzying statistic. And, with the invasion of Covid, our screen time has inevitably worsened. Our board meetings have turned to Zoom or Teams, Netflix is all too tempting instead of a sociable lunch break and let’s face it – most of us are practically glued to our personal devices even when we’re not at work.
Statistically, research has shown that only “15% of employees want to work from home full time.” This finding from the BCFA highlights that despite what we first thought, working from home is not all it’s cracked up to be. More to the point they claim that “30% of remote workers say they struggle with loneliness whilst working remotely.” An office space is not only essential for solid communication, dynamic teamwork and less screen time, it is, perhaps more importantly, a place of unity and compassion – the support bubble that we never knew we needed, but already had.
70% of home workers are struggling to sleep
Last year at the start of the pandemic Psychreg ran a survey that showed out of 2000 participants, 70% of people claimed to have difficulty sleeping since working from home. It’s crucial to consider that some of us who are working from home do not have the physical space to separate home from work. We have been working from bedrooms, kitchens, sofas… You name it. Wherever we can perch a laptop and a coffee. It’s also no secret that the majority of us are now wearing PJ bottoms & slippers the majority of the time. Don’t get me wrong, this is a lovely prospect but is it any wonder we are finding it hard to sleep when the lines between home comforts and work are blurred. We all know work can be challenging and very stressful at times. It is important that we distance that stress as much as we can from our home environments. Imagine after a tough day in the office and not being allowed to leave at 5pm. You have to sleep in the coffee room and get straight back to your desk at 8. Not appealing…or very comfortable.
It’s always better when we’re together
It is a common pandemic-born opinion that offices will become obsolete in the future. We disagree. On the contrary. What recent times have taught us is that separation of home life and work life is key for our welfare. As humans, we crave that connectivity and human interaction – it keeps us, well… Human! We, along with the big CEOs of Facebook & Google, believe more than ever, office spaces are becoming a sanctuary for healthy brains and happy employees. And – of course – good business.
Re-designing the Room
So, other than a sense of community, how do these companies incentivise their people to venture out of the comfort of their own homes where they have nestled for the past year? With all the rules and Covid guidelines in place, companies are having to get creative with their feng shui. We are having to completely reimagine office layouts and designs adhering to social distancing, number of bodies and dining arrangements. Our meeting rooms have been sliced into segments with perspex screens, communal seating has been sacked and we’re all playing desk Tetris. Although we might feel like goldfish, the solutions some have invested in are quite unique and dare say GEN Z. Pichai at Google has even hinted at using teepees outdoors to inspire people to come back to the office. Now more than ever we are being forced to think outside the box and there is even more of a focus on open plan work spaces and attention to the benefits of being outdoors. This is all well and good if your office is in California! I can’t see Teepee conference rooms being a hit in the UK somehow. So how do we bring a sense of the outdoors into the office? A recent discussion on the Vicus Partners feed visits this. Designers are saying “The trend to healthier and greener interior spaces will continue. For many of our office interior projects we include a landscape consultant …. incorporating plants and green walls into all our spaces allows for connection to the natural world, calm, as well they practically deal with cleaning and filtering the air.”
I know what you’re thinking. It’s easy to have big ideas for post Covid reinvention when you’ve got BIG money to spend like Google & Facebook. But re-considering your office design is a common new challenge faced by all businesses big and small all over the world. Re-shaping your office can be a daunting task at the best of times, never mind trying to stick within a budget and Boris Johnson’s contorting parameters. There is now the added pressure of future proofing our spaces too. We have to remain flexible in case of unexpected turns. Who knows what the world will throw at us next. Will office life ever return to its pre-Covid state? I think it’s safe to say that the pandemic has informed a new era of working life for us all, maybe for the better!
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