Empty Workplaces. What to expect from the Post-Covid era 

Cities without people. That´s how the world was like one year ago. 

The big and always crowded avenues around the world were silenced by a mysterious invisible visitor. A dystopian scenery that seems to have been written by George Orwell.

The COVID has frozen everything: relationships, trips, cities and jobs. A spell that only innovation can break. The reality is that we can no longer go back to what we used to be; we have been forced to march forward and, if the steps are unsafe, we must wear our best explorer boots, to access an overview and build a new way dealing with our surroundings  

In the workplace, everything mentioned translates into uncertainty, teleworking, digitization and the need for new models that enables us to face this path full of challenges. We have already seen empty offices, will it also be what the future of work holds?

In person or remote? 

Offices will not disappear. This is what the experts tell us. However, new work models do not require 100% presence. Labor flexibility allows numerous combinations where employees can operate remotely or from the office, according their convenience and in agreement with the company.

15% of the workforce is expected to return to offices during 2021. A figure that is still quite low and that requires companies to look for alternatives to save on costs. New locations, reduction of square meters or flexible spaces, are some of the solutions that are being applied. 

Models such as 'hot desking', which had already been applied in many places, have gained relevance with the current situation. However, these models only work by investing in space management tools. Organization is one of the main concerns in these flexible models, to which a new priority is now added: the safety and well-being of employees. 

What matters in the offices of the future? 

The requirements for returning to an office must be demanding and even the smallest detail must be taken into account. Not only what is related to the individual workspace, but also with meeting rooms, break rooms, canteens and bathrooms. The new configuration requires not only paying more attention to safety, but also fostering communication and continuing with sustainable initiatives:

1. Safety 

The health authorities are in charge of dictating prevention protocols which include the use of masks or maintaining a safety distance. However, these measures are not always mandatory inside the offices and their responsibility depends on the companies. Other vital issues that will determine the return will be: 

• Capacity control 

Tools for space management implementation 

• Intelligent ventilation systems

Technological investment is the main way by which companies can adapt to changes. Those that can get it the quickest will lead the market.

2. Communication 

The setting of the space is not neutral and might cause a feeling of isolation. Fluid and transparent communication must be offered inside and outside the office to create a cooperative environment in which the employees help changes to occur, improving productivity and adaptation times.

The best way to be successful in adopting new work models and the configuration of spaces is by informing about processes and training teams. Communication is the basis for fostering an inclusive corporate culture and increasing people's satisfaction with their work environment. 

3. Sustainability 

Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals is a global priority and the urge of the coronavirus has accentuated, even more if possible, awareness in organizations and employees. According to Epson's report Sustainable Work Environments 2021, 83% of Spanish workers consider that their companies have to focus more on social and environmental problems

Currently, numerous studies refer to the reduction of polluting gases during the production stoppage and mobility restrictions, due to Covid. It also asks whether teleworking is a solution in the fight against climate change. All this overload of information and the need to adopt new work models has driven the commitment to sustainability and digital transformation within companies. 

Evolution to the ‘smart’ concept

The future of buildings and offices is smart, offering safety and transparency about who is inside them, how and when the spaces are used and how well they perform. The 'smart' technology allows companies to evaluate the quality of their offices and decide on possible improvements and solutions. 

The concept of a healthy workplace has raised its significance in the post-covid era. The employee is at the center and improving their working conditions is a fundamental issue where, in addition, the optimization of processes, Corporate Social Responsibility and the growth of companies come into play.

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