It remains too early to say how and when economies will return to normal and what that new normal will look like. Despite the uncertainties, it is possible to make some tentative predictions. Safe and healthy workplaces is at the centre of what’s next in business. As businesses open up, facility professionals are among the unsung heroes who ensure that individuals come back in confidence to a healthy and safe facility
Companies are envisioning a new normal, prioritizing additional space, sanitation and flexibility with more employees working from home on a semi-regular basis. Use of technology, conserving energy would be other focus areas. Covid 19 will help shape the next phase of the modern office, becoming an accelerator and an influencer to the evolutionary nature of workplaces.
Key changes would include deep emphasis on cleaning, use of antimicrobial materials, disinfecting UV lights, which can clean not only equipment like keyboards but entire rooms overnight, use of robots. Companies will be installing more sensors to reduce touch points, such as on light and power switches and door handles, more and better air filtration, temperature monitoring at entry points, desks that are spaced farther apart, plus subtle design features that remind people to keep their distance. HVAC systems designs have to be looked at with a different perspective.
The very concept of the modern office sharing desks and other facilities -- which seemed so normal just a few weeks ago now appears antithetical to safety and productivity.
A number of corporates are taking a very cautious approach in terms of percentage of people reentering the workplace and are looking at longer term work from home programs. As the massive work-from-home experiment moves from a few weeks to months, remote work is here to stay, believe experts-- and companies including Microsoft and Zillow have suggested they will be extending their remote work policies going forward.
A new ecosystem may not require a five-day occupancy in office, especially if we have a longer, two year covid journey. Experts are bullish on the future of remote work and bearish on overall future of office space demand.
Even if you follow the six-foot protocols for work stations, there are other common areas in traditional offices where social distancing becomes more difficult. "It's becoming clear that we are not going back to what was normal as of January 2020.” Expect a complete change of origin.
Says Sundar Nagarajan, Head of Consulting at Commercial real estate firm JLL, "The goal is not to bring 100 people just because you can safely have people sit on a floor with social distancing," "The goal is to bring as few people as possible to keep their businesses ongoing, because every person that you bring that is not necessary in the office, you are adding that much of a risk to those who are absolutely necessary in the office.”"The question is who needs to come, rather than how many can come," he adds. People have to start to really thinking about what is the future of work, what is the future of their business, and how does the workplace support that business."