Living in a COVID world

As a host of vaccines usher us back to our offices and we establish new ways of working, the geography, design and fabric of our workspaces will be fundamental to how we manage these changes to maximise the undoubtable benefits.

We anticipate a trend for companies to diversify their locations. A year of video conferencing has shown clearly that companies can perhaps be more mobile than had previously been thought. Locations that were once reserved for back-office functions are now becoming increasingly attractive for regional or headquarter operations. Social distancing of sorts will probably remain with us for the foreseeable future, so our offices will perhaps need to provide more space for us all to feel comfortable in.

Lower density occupation will be an almost inevitable consequence of this need for more personal and circulation space. But this is perhaps merely an acceleration of an evolution of the office’s function which has been apparent for some time. Flexible working has been propelled into the mainstream of employment for millions and the trend towards the office as a place primarily for social interaction and idea generation is becoming well established. As a result, amenities such as cafés and clubrooms will be an integrated part of the experience.

So, if the office’s function is changing, then it makes sense that its form will also need to flex. Social and interaction spaces will become more central to these new operational styles, perhaps leading to fewer traditional desk spaces and more ‘zoom-rooms’ and group ‘huddle-spaces’. Flexible, super-fast communications with enough bandwidth to manage video comms will become a key requirement.

In multi-occupational buildings we will need to give additional thought to access and biosecurity to manage any future risks. Reduced touch points, 100% fresh air ventilation systems and a focus on wellbeing will need to be part of the mix. Indeed, future proofing for health will be a fundamental new design parameter.

Over the past five years our projects have been focused on delivering healthy and inspirational workspaces. The benefits of this work are now becoming clear.

It feels like we’ve been studying for an exam that, until recently, we didn’t know existed.