The Future of Workspaces post COVID-19

As we all know, COVID-19 has rocked the world not only in individuals personal health and safety, but also their security in work. The lockdown has perpetually changed the way people have had to figure out their work lives, adapting to working from home or not working at all. There are arguments both for and against working-from-home due to the quality of workspaces that are now available. Prior to COVID-19, research was being conducted and implemented throughout work environments to optimise workers level of productivity. Hoendervanger (2015, p. 1) analyses the use of a tool called ‘MyPlace2Work’ which allows individuals to log activities they perform in different workspaces, to determine which workspace invokes the best productivity. 

The most notable company that adapts their work environment to their employees is Google. An online article from Brooks (2018) dissects the intricate work culture of the company and what they get right in terms of their unique workspace experience. Brooks (2018) says, “Google’s culture is flexible (employees are encouraged to work when they like and how they like), fun (offices have nap pods, video games and ping pong) and founded on trust”. The fun and trust elements come hand in hand. While creativity and innovation are rewarded, the trust that employees get the work done with the fun and uplifting elements of the workspace improve their productivity levels and fuels their creativity. Many technology companies are paving the way with improvements to their spaces (such as rotating desks, treadmill, open plan environments etc) to allow for a more innovative space. Companies such as those that value innovation and creativity should be implementing strategies, like Google, to create a dynamic workplace that allows creativity to flourish.

On the other hand, working from home during the global pandemic has become the new norm for many workers. While many countries have almost eradicated the virus, it is predicted that many employees will continue to work from home. Lister (2020), the president of Global Workplace analytics has said, “For those who were new to remote work until the pandemic, we believe there will be a significant upswing in their adoption. Our best estimate is that we will see 25-30% of the workforce working at home on a multiple-days-a-week basis by the end of 2021”. There is a list of reasons as to why this may become a standardised practice. Increased demand for work-from-home from employees, reduces fear from employers and mangers, increased awareness of cost-saving opportunities in work-from-home are all reasons individuals from the survey have used to support the predicted increase for working-from-home. Working from home is a completely different experience than working in office spaces. Many people have had to adapt their homes into workable spaces as they have not had to work from home before. 

Corporate culture is a major factor that is influenced when working-from-home. A collaborative workspace, like offices, allows for instant communication and socialisation. However, with working-from-home communication is regular scheduled and delayed through technology. Though we have applications such as Zoom and Skype for meetings and conference calls, these do not allow for face-to-face connections. Co-working Resources (2019)  demonstrate that company culture is fostered through employees coming together for team-building exercises and engaging in company wide meetings. Having smaller disjointed teams makes culture within the company harder to accomplish. This is something companies are going to have to tackle now that working from home is suggested to become the news normal for many. As mentioned before, people have had to adapt their homes to encourage a productive workspace. Though working from the couch seemed to be the most ideal situations for many pre COVID-19, it is now creating a mass of issues on peoples health. While in many work environments there is dress codes and suitable desks and chairs are all provided for their employees, this is not the same case at home. Houses and apartments do not always have a dedicated place for work. Family homes are lucky to have the space enough for a child each room let alone a dedicated study. 

What the future holds for work and/or workspaces is obviously unknown, but we have ways of predicting what can happen. Spaces that create an opportunity to be innovative and creative are more than just your average grey square cubicle. The more other options are implemented the further we can determine its functionality and correlation with productivity. In a post COVID-19 world, everything is still up in the air, however, it is fascinating to notice how these times will impact on the future of work. Will working from home become the new normality? Or are there still too many negative impacts on mental health and corporate culture to allow this to happen? 


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