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Is the office back? Reimagining the workplace in a post-Covid-19 environment

For more than a year, real estate leaders have been collecting data to understand how a reimagined workplace would look. In a recent article by USA TodayUnispace thought leaders and clients, along with global commercial real estate firms JLL and CBRE share their thoughts on trends influencing the future office. 

Across the country, companies and landlords have been stepping up their office designs to offer more safety features, tech-enabled spaces for communication, and create an environment that fosters collaboration and productivity.  

Prioritizing hygiene  

While many thought Covid-19 was the death of open workstations, unassigned seating provides a solution to easily social distance, and color-coded cards letting staff know their work station has been sanitized offers them peace of mind and reassurance. These office reconfigurations are combined with safety-led technology enhancements like app-enabled elevators, food dispensers, and reservations for workstations.  

Albert DePlazaola, Global Director of Strategy at Unispace shares his thoughts on the new office experience“clients are doing everything touchless, from bathroom faucets to elevator entries. There are apps out there that will pretty much design your day. We call them the digital concierge.” 

In addition, Ryan Alexander, a CBRE Executive Vice President in New York notes how office buildings will change to meet the new demands of their tenants. “There are thermal scanners in the lobby to take your temperature, hand scanners for touchless entry into buildings. If you're visiting a client or a company, they send you a guest barcode to your phone that you just scan.”  

Designing for the office’s new role 

At the same time, companies are rethinking the role of the office, its design and the technology involved. According to a November 2020 report by JLL, seventy percent of office workers believe collaborating with colleagues, solving complex issues, managing staff, and connecting with leadership, are better done in an office. 

In the future workplace, flexibility will be key, with spaces that can be broken down and rearranged as needed through features like movable furniture and retractable doors. Upgrading technology and making environmental changes like filtration systems will also be important as workforces make their way back.  

However, many companies are holding on making large financial long-term commitments until they better understand how their people will come back. Steve Stratton, JLL’s chairman of Headquarters Practice Group says, “the concern of the real estate decision-makers and financial C-suite is not knowing what happens after 2022. It's a new way of working, working from home, working in a hybrid model; it's a major capital investment." 

Futureproofing for success 

Some organizations have used the pandemic as an opportunity to create an environment that’s more efficient and modern for today’s worker. For example, we partnered with Minneapolis-based law firm Fredrikson & Byron to deliver their Des Moines office with built-in solutions for their next normal. Large glass doors on the offices, planters separating workstations, and retractable doors on their conference room provide natural light and physical barriers for safe distancing. Unlike many traditional law offices, the surfaces in the hallways and common areas are polished concrete, giving the space a sleek look and feel, and making them easily cleanable and durable. Lastly, all offices and rooms are tech-enabled for seamless communication between their staff and with clients.  

Most law offices, if you think about them are kind of opulent and rich and a lot of material and carpeting. But we wanted surfaces that were easily cleanable and durable. - Bridget Penick, Partner, Fredrikson & Byron 

The pandemic has changed how and where we work, but proactively planning for your future office environment, can help you make informed decisions and help you meet your business goals. Learn more about how we’ve helped our clients reimagine the future of the workplace. 

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