The social media company, Twitter, recently announced that staff could ‘forever work from home’ if they wanted to.
Dress how you want. Enjoy more leisure time (in theory). No commute. No congestion. No parking fees.
It all sounds wonderful. So why are so many of us still keen to get back in the office as soon as we can?
Expect ‘mixed working’ says BCO.
Rumours of the demise of the office are much exaggerated according to new independent polling commissioned by Barques client, the British Council for Offices.
The representative body for the UK’s office sector has found that just one in five of us plan to work primarily from home in the future.
Only 16% of respondents hoped that working from home would replace the office, whilst 38% had no plans to work from home at all.
Given that ONS figures suggest that in the region of 1.7 million people – or 5% of the UK population – already worked mainly from home before lockdown, the shift in our collective mentality has not been anywhere near as profound as might have been expected.
It would seem that many of us are opting for ‘mixed working’ instead, balancing time between the office and working from home.
What we’ve all been missing out on
Workers are clearly missing office life. But what are we missing out on?
BCO research suggests that more than a third (34%) of us have missed socialising with colleagues, while 35% have missed getting out of the house or being in the centre of town.
Additionally, a quarter (25%) have missed having a physical distinction between work and leisure.
We asked two BCO experts for their view.
“The results of this poll do not surprise me,” says Danny Parmar, business development manager at Overbury and chair of the BCO Midlands and East Anglia committee.
“Human beings are social animals and the office is a great place, not only to socialise but also to share and develop great ideas to progress our businesses.”
Mike Ayton, owner of Juniper Real Estate and chair of the BCO’s East Anglia sub-chapter, agrees: “The need for social interaction, teambuilding, collaboration and the generation of new ideas that emanates from this are simply too important to be cast aside.
“The COVID-19 lockdown has taken away freedom of choice but as restrictions ease, office workers will want to be able to have the right to choose a balance between home and office working and in time, a new equilibrium will develop. The consensus view is that the office is still an essential element of the business or corporate environment.”
There’s life in the office, just not as we know it
So, as many of us begin to take our first tentative steps back to the workplace, what can we expect our offices to look like in the wake of COVID-19?
Firstly, we can largely say goodbye to hotdesking, according to a new thought paper written by the BCO’s Technical Affairs Committee.
Whilst the practice will still exist in some places, few of us will be keen to use them unless they’re frequently and intensely cleaned.
Screens will be introduced to protect receptionists from potentially ‘virus carrying visitors’ and gendered communal toilets will be replaced by pod-based ‘superloos’, featuring touchless doors, taps and soap dispensers.
We can expect an increase in bike storage as workers avoid commuter crowds. We’ll see an end to communal cutlery, coffee pots and water bottles. And there will be limits on the number of people that can occupy a space.
What happens when the screens come down?
Yet whilst the office of the immediate future may not look the same with social distancing measures in place, the long-term picture may turn out to be surprisingly and reassuringly familiar.
Businesses have been looking into more flexible working for years, using videoconferencing and working from home. Employee wellbeing has become an increasing focus for business leaders, with a growing body of evidence to demonstrate the links between physical and mental health and productivity.
In many ways the great social experiment of working from home during lockdown, may simply have provided a platform to accelerate the introduction of forward-thinking ideas already in the pipeline.
When the screens come down and the sanitiser runs dry, the likelihood is that the office of the future is one that we were already talking about. And it’s here to stay.
As a people-based business that’s steeped in commercial property and passionate about office design, we’ll raise a (clean and socially distant) glass to that.
Whether at home or in the office, you can always contact a member of the Barques team to find out more about how we can help to grow your business.