Cyril Parsons, MD of Office Principles, sets out how to make the office a place workers want to return to after lockdown
All Images: Paul Cooper Photography
Words: Cyril Parsons, Office Principles
The office as a work location has changed significantly in the past 15 years or so and, post-Covid, it’s likely to change even more.
We had long reached the point where a lot of workers didn’t need to be in the office to carry out their duties – as long as we had access to Wi-Fi and a laptop, we were good to go. Lockdown has helped to cement this way of working, turning it into a reality for the masses as we’ve all been forced to work from home.
Not only has lockdown proved that working from home is a credible and viable option, that delivers on the productivity front, it has also changed how a lot of us feel about work.
‘We’re likely looking at more indulgent, shared spaces with colours, concepts and styling similar to boutique bars and hotels, designed specifically to draw the worker in’
For instance, many commuters have realised an improvement in work-life balance that they are reluctant to give up, and we have all embraced the opportunity to adopt a more flexible style of working.
This leaves design consultants and space planners with a challenge: how do we tempt workers into an environment whose purpose has been reduced?
Providing a space to meet up
A slew of surveys revealed that what many workers missed most at the height of lockdown was the opportunity to come together – to collaborate, socialise and engage. Zoom and FaceTime don’t cut it when workers are keen to put their heads together over a coffee or to celebrate a team achievement.
Moving forward, employees are likely to come into the office to work on projects that require collaboration and shared creative thinking, opting to stay home for work calls and solo working, where a deeper level of concentration is required.
Given that, there is a need for people-centric concepts, designed to rethink the environment and engage workers so that they feel a part of the office scene. We’re likely looking at more indulgent, shared spaces with colours, concepts and styling similar to boutique bars and hotels, designed specifically to draw the worker in.
Pitching the office versus home
I believe we’ve reached a point at which the office must deliver a rewarding and stimulating experience in order to present a preferable alternative and prevent us from regularly basing ourselves at home – or any third location.
We’ve moved on from measuring the value of office space against total occupancy costs and the utilisation of spaces. Now, we judge the office environment by employee fulfilment, happiness levels, health and wellbeing – and the bar is constantly being raised.
Surveys revealed that what many workers missed most at the height of lockdown was the opportunity to come together’
If the office is to maintain its existence as a hub, it has to entice us into the workspace and give us good reason to be present, providing an ‘experience’; something special that can’t be got from any other location.
Bringing it together
The majority of office workers now want flexibility, inspiration and the opportunity to be creative and come together as a team.
The challenge is to marry the employee requirement with the corporate requirement. Corporates want increased productivity and an environment that will reflect well on the brand, positively influencing recruitment activity.
If the fundamental aim is achieved – to deliver a unique, shared office environment that creates the experience and enables people to belong – then we should be able to surpass that corporate expectation while addressing all needs.