If you’ve been working from home the past month or so but are used to working in the office, there’s bound to be elements of each that you like and dislike. When COVID-19 lockdown eases and life resumes, you’ll probably miss the 30-second commute downstairs rather than that gridlocked drive home. For many of us, working from home has enabled us to reassess what we actually need to do our jobs effectively. While you probably miss the free food Fridays and bustling office floor, going back to basics with your office design and activity is likely to stick around!
After getting used to the new working conditions we’ve been subjected to since March (or even earlier!), simple elements like large workstations, open windows, flexibility and casual workwear will allow us to strike that perfect balance between the home and work office.
Larger desks and workstations
Office desks have gotten progressively smaller over the years as businesses aim to get more square footage for their money. Desks have shrunk from 1.8m to 1.6m to 1.4m and even smaller. It’s unlikely that cramped banks and rows of desks will remain when we all return to the office. Office furniture and architecture are likely to widen as people have grown cautious of the proximity between one another. Homeworkers have gotten used to being alone in a spare room, study or having the entire dining table to themselves.
We’re unaware what government advice and regulations will be when the lockdown is lifted as this could include regulations that permit us to stay 6 feet away from each other at all times. Even if these regulations aren’t put in place, it’s likely that we’ll want larger personal workstations when returning to the office. From a personal safety point of view, people will want to keep their distance from each other to prevent catching any sicknesses from colleagues around them. From a personal space perspective, larger desks will allow us more room to personalise our workstations and dedicate areas to the technology and resources we actually need.
More ventilation and fresh air
Being able to work outside in your garden, on your balcony or even leaving the back door open while you’re working from home has been a luxury many of us have enjoyed. The fresh air and natural light do wonders for your productivity and even your mental and physical health. Being back in the office with closed windows, doors and minimal natural light will no doubt have a negative impact on your wellbeing.
Our heightened appreciation for the outdoors is set to continue on the office floor. Employees will want to open the blinds, windows and doors to improve ventilation and get as much natural light in the building as possible. Where natural ventilation isn’t possible, we could see more businesses adopting advanced air conditioning systems for the office. With a proper filtration system, the quality of the air we breathe in the office will be improved. This should also help to reduce the number of people who get sick in the workplace.
Switch to casual workwear
For many professionals, workwear involves wearing suits, shirts, skirts, dresses, trousers and smart shoes while in the office. Businesses want to make a strong impression on their clients and maintain a corporate environment. This isn’t the case for all businesses as many have already adopted a casual dress code in which workers can wear whatever they like to the office. But since working from home, the formal dress code has gone out of the window for most.
Our typical uniform now includes joggers, leggings, t-shirts and hoodies – the comfier the better. The exception being when you’re on a video call with a client and you put on a nice shirt without your lunch spilt down it! While we’re not saying everyone’s going back to work in their pyjamas, a more casual dress code could be on the cards for many businesses. After seeing how little it affects your ability to work, wearing jeans, trainers, t-shirts and jumpers could help you feel much more comfortable during the working day.
More flexibility in how we work
We think that the end of the office has been greatly exaggerated. It’s unlikely that once lockdown has lifted businesses are suddenly going to close shop and order all their staff to work from home forevermore. But it could see the office becoming much more flexible in its layout. While this shift has been around for a while, it could become the norm for most businesses.
Giving workers more freedom to work where and how they want introduces flexibility to their working day. With more autonomy comes increased productivity and efficiency. Businesses are likely to see more satisfied employees if they’re trusted, as they were at home, to work in whichever way suits them – as long as work remains top-quality. Even if flexibility isn’t introduced in the office itself, we could see businesses letting their employees work from home one or two days a week. This gives you the freedom to attend appointments and focus on projects away from your colleagues. It can also help prevent the spread of illness. If your workers feel like they’re coming down with symptoms of any kind, they can isolate at home to prevent others from getting ill while continuing to work if they please.
Working from home has been a learning curve for us all. The transition from bustling office life to a solitary home-working environment has taken some getting used to. It’s clear that working from home has taught us lessons that we’ll carry back into the workplace once we’re permitted back in the office. Larger workstations, more natural light and ventilation, casual workwear and improved flexibility are great elements that help us reach a balance between work and home office life.