The future of the office and the impacts Covid-19 has had on design and project management

16 Feb 2021 09:38 PM

This week, we sat down with Rebecca Pelling, Managing Director of Project Services at Lpc Cresa, to look at the future of the office and impacts of Covid on design and project management.

Do you think work from home will be a permanent feature going forward?

I think a hybrid option with the flexibility to be able to work from home 2-3 days a week will be the most common, however we have clients at both ends of the spectrum, either going fully remote or fully back into the office.

There is also a myriad of different functions within organisations which require varying degrees of collaboration. From analysis completed for clients, we generally found that work from home saw an increase in performance for repetitive and less social tasks, while team-based functions that require a high degree of creativity and interaction saw a drop in productivity. As a result, there may be certain positions which lend themselves better or worse to work from home.

What is important about the office?

Even prior to COVID-19, the “bump factor” was always considered to be important when designing a workspace, and a lot of time was spent ensuring it was incorporated. The bump factor allows employees to have unplanned interactions with colleagues or clients. For example, that might be via a large breakout kitchen when making a coffee or lunch, or at refreshment points in the middle of floors, or seeing clients when walking through the reception. The benefit of the bump factor is that it allows discussion of projects and ideas that otherwise might not have occurred, improving teamwork and helping to solve challenges. This has been something which has been difficult to replicate with work from home.

Other than the bump factor, more obvious aspects such as collaboration, culture, and access to job specific tools can make the office valuable for businesses.

How do businesses allocate desks to employees adopting a partial work from home schedule?

With each business and location having different needs, it should be based on data collected in a utilisation study showing how their business has shifted.

As a result, I think the most prevalent model will be a combination of fixed and agile desk allocations. Some employees may require fixed desks because of their role or type of work, while others will be able to share if working partially from home. High density collaboration areas may also be needed when there are tasks which require employees to all visit the office at the same time, such as an accounts payable team at the end of the month.

Desk allocation tools such as Go Spaces can also be beneficial for booking desks and collecting data on utilisation.

What physical changes to the office are required?

Overall, office footprints are decreasing as companies evaluate their need for space. Some clients have sought to downsize and eliminate unnecessary space, while others who have gone entirely work from home yet still looked to maintain a small touchpoint office. Covid distancing of 1.5 metres will also be an interim solution, given the inefficiencies it creates.

With an increased usage and acceptance of web meetings, one design element change is the reduced need for front of house meeting areas as clients are far more open to meet virtually. For companies adopting partial work from home, desk sharing and agile workspaces come with their own needs, such as lockers for personal possessions and hot desking areas.

What features contribute to a healthy workplace and how are buildings changing?

Features such as end-of-trip facilities, biophilia green space, access to fitness and wellness options, and surrounding food and retail amenities will continue to remain extremely important for tenants. These facilities all contribute to overall wellbeing and productivity, and while their usage has dropped away with Covid, we expect an even further emphasis with a vaccine, to justify coming into the office.

Covid has also placed a renewed spotlight on a building’s operational performance, including ventilation systems for air quality, water filtration, technology, accessibility, and natural light. These all help to ensure an occupant’s health, both with and without the pandemic.

How can Lpc Cresa help?

At Lpc Cresa, we help tenants across Australia and New Zealand with their commercial real estate needs, including transaction advisory, portfolio management and project management.  In summary, we make sure tenant interests are protected and that our clients enter into tenant friendly lease agreements.

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