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Communal and quiet spaces key to post-COVID office success

Posted: 21st July 2021

Scotland-wide workplace consultancy, Space Solutions Group, has created a range of strategic services for organisations to evaluate how to adapt their offices to the new circumstances and changed working arrangements post-COVID.

The next generation of offices will continue the shift towards agile shared space that better supports collaboration and concentration. Most meetings, Space Solutions’ research shows, involve only up to four people and can take place in a semi-enclosed environment.

Underlining the creation of the Strategic Workplace Review (SWR) services is the group’s research over the past year of lockdown into what worked for employers, what was unexpected and what changes are worth keeping as more businesses prepare to return to offices.

Remote technology provision and flexible working are now increasingly embedded into workplace planning but Space Solutions also focuses on how these innovations impact on HR practices, company identity and ethos.

Space Solution’s SWR enables businesses to identify the practical steps they need to make offices ready for changed practices. Many businesses foresee an end to traditional ‘owned’ desk plans, and Space Solutions’ research shows that the office will be valued more as a place to exchange ideas and encourage co-operative thinking rather than providing individual owned desks.

This will mean more focus on communal spaces, an emphasis on flexible meeting spaces and, mindful of ongoing COVID risk, incorporating preventative measures such as hygiene stations and using materials in public spaces that are easy to clean.

Noise remains a critical factor however, the proliferation of video calls and meetings will mean that people will demand quiet space where they can carry out concentrated tasks and also spaces where they can collaborate virtually without disturbing others.

New post-Covid offices are likely to feature:

  • Multiple work settings rather than fixed workstations
  • Shared space not owned space
  • Support of and trust in employees rather than ‘command and control’
  • Collaborative and connected working in the office rather than Individual contributions or autonomous working
  • Technology that enables instead of inhibits
  • Better support for concentrated tasks

Phil Muir, Consultancy & Design Director for Space Solutions Group said:

“Companies who think strategically about their office space – and follow through with authentic actions – typically attract the best talent, have higher retention rates, and a happier and more productive workforce.

“The collective experience of home working is likely to accelerate a move towards more agile working, where work is a ‘thing that you do’ and not a ‘place where you go’. This will require the elements of people, place and technology to work together more than ever.”

The Group’s experience during the pandemic has reinforced a number of key issues including:

  • Mon-Fri 9-5 in the workplace was previously a habit no-one questioned, but as we weren’t in the workplace all day, every day – desks were on average empty as often as they were used.
  • In-office Visibility Pre-pandemic the uptake of regular working from home was low in many organisations as managers expected staff to be in the office. Successful home working since March 2020 has surely overturned this attitude.
  • Numerous workplace surveys during lockdown reported no significant drop in productivity with staff working remotely.
  • Working remotely is challenging and junior staff members especially can be negatively affected by the loss of interaction
  • Work bases. Apart from home or office there are other options such as cafes, libraries, co-working spaces or client spaces.
  • Health & hygiene. Attitudes have changed and the design of communal spaces, choice of materials and cleaning will take on a new level of importance.

“We believe that the solution to flexibility lies in a robust space planning strategy – not in technology itself which cannot be predicted, but in the infrastructure and the strategic allocation of building fixes” Phil Muir said.

Business Comment

Business Comment is the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce’s bi-monthly magazine. It provides insight on Edinburgh’s vibrant business community, with features on the city’s key sectors, interviews with leading figures and news on new business developments in the capital.
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