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                                              Offices of the Future

Greetings dear friends & welcome to my world again this week. Here is a sign of the times: an airport is offering passengers who really miss air travel a trip to nowhere.

The Jetsons were an animated television family in the early 1960s. Their space-age home was cleaned by Rosie the robot. They talked to each other via video & smartwatches and read the news on flat-screen televisions. Drone-like flying pods delivered their children to school. Voice-activated devices talked to them.

That was then, this is now. 

As a result of the corona-virus pandemic, interior designers are busy planning the office of the future. A vision of what office workers may come back to (whenever this may be), could include the doors into our office building will open automatically so we do not have to touch them. We will tell the lift our floor so we do not have to touch its buttons. Elevator occupancy will be regulated to enable social distancing. 

Our office will have dividers separating workspaces spaced further apart. Break rooms & kitchens will have fewer chairs & signs documenting the last time they were cleaned. 

All of this reverses the trend following the last recession in which companies were trying to do more with less space. Many packed their employees into open office spaces, a practice known as “densification.” This will likely be reversed now with more private spaces or personal offices for employees. Sensors will detect & warn of overcrowding; employees will take turns using private offices & will work from home otherwise.

One company is developing a concept called “Six Feet Office” with visually displayed foot traffic routing to keep employees six feet apart. Higher quality air filtration systems, UV lighting to sanitize surfaces, & more common hand-sanitizing stations are predicted. So too are infrared body temperature scanners, virus & antibody testing kits for employees.  [1]

We will need more space for for fewer employees. All of this of course, assumes we will all ultimately return to our offices.

According to a recent report I read, 34 percent of people who previously commuted to work were working from home by the first week of April due to coronavirus. Prior to the pandemic, only 4 percent of the workforce worked from home at least half the time. 

Home offices are being created & becoming more common as a result. People are looking for ways to convert a closet or add a room to create more functional work-from-home space. They are buying desks, office supplies, & computer technology more frequently than before. 

Does this trend mean companies will lease less space? One way companies can lessen the financial impact of the pandemic is to reduce their rent obligations. However, while they may have fewer employees in the office, their social-distancing space may need to be larger, so the two trends cancel each other out. 

Pre-Covid, the trends were already tilted toward more private team space within many organisations. What I suspect will be most in demand will be spaces offering a measure of control & privacy during the recovery, when there is still financial uncertainty & from a health & safety perspective.

So, for those who do return to their office jobs following the coronavirus, the space will look different, & they will be functional for a different future. Hopefully, this will mean they will be safer too.

I hope my comments each week are helpful dear readers; & again, provide just an opinion, from my world. Thank you for taking the time to be with me, I hope my journey may encourage you also. This is Kenn Butler in Paradise, Nelson. With my best wishes, I look forward to connecting with you again soon.

[1] Rani Molla ~ Working From Home will be the new normal  

Kenn Butler
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