[Curated] How remote working is transforming office design

By 24th March 2020 July 20th, 2020 Employee Wellbeing, Office design trends

With the effect of the Covid-19 outbreak on businesses taking more people into a remote working space, how will office design change?

2020 has been a year of surprises and will most likely change many things in the coming years, but we can all agree that the biggest change will be to the way people work. 

As the weeks go on, we can see that more and more companies are doing the responsible thing and switching to a remote working environment. This is great to see, but is still new to the South African market, despite remote working becoming very popular globally over the last few years. Now the Covid-19 outbreak has not only forced companies in SA to adopt remote working faster but it will most definitely be the norm long after the threat is over. 

We’re sure that you’ve thought about all the ways this is going to change your business, but have you stopped to think about how it will change the way we design office spaces?

Fast Company wrote an article in June 2019 entitled More people are working remotely, and it’s transforming office design, which talks to the need to create an office space that “serves both in-person and remote workers”. Now that this topic is more relevant than ever, we took a look at what Fast Company said to give you insights from a South African design company perspective. 

Here are the key trends highlighted in the article and what we think about them:

1. Make working at the office more like working from home

In the article they note that; “Basecamp CEO Jason Fried says he designed the office to ‘simulate what it would be like if nobody was actually at the office.’ That meant making the experience of working in the office to be as close as possible to what it’s like to work from home.” We love this concept as it means that office space design is becoming more creative and less stagnant. That everything from the choice of furniture to the colour of the walls is designed with PEOPLE in mind. 

2. Build more small, acoustically sound spaces

This is a trend that we have been very passionate about for many years and have written several articles about it. In another of our blogs we noted that if employees prefer peace and quiet and you place them in a noisy office, their productivity will suffer. It’s important to remember that when employees are used to being in their own spaces, when they do have to go into an office, it’s important to give them spaces to feel more relaxed and not so overwhelmed, especially with introverts.

3. Showers, nap pods, and lunch are the best perks

This trend has become very popular in the ‘popular’ companies like Google and it’s usually the thing that has people saying, “I want an office like Google”. While we are firm believers that the ‘Google model’ is not right for all companies, adding elements like this are great for companies that have employees in different countries or towns. In the article they highlight this by saying;

“Employees who are traveling to come into the office may not have time to drop by their hotel after stepping off a red-eye flight. That’s why at GitHub, where more than two-thirds of the workforce is remote, the office features perks focused around helping employees get cleaned up after traveling. The company’s four offices have showers for exactly this purpose, and nap rooms for when jet lag hits.”

4. Give each team a home base so remote workers have a place to land when they visit

This part of the article starts with, “When remote workers do come into the office, they’re going to need a place to sit – and ideally, a place where they feel at home.” We couldn’t agree more. It’s not about making sure there is an open desk for every employee, it’s about looking at things like hot-desking so that people know that there will be a space for them to use when they do go into the office.

This is covered nicely in the article by focusing on how Atlassian does it. They ensure that every employee feels like part of a community as soon as they arrive by making sure that “each office has central team spaces that are branded with the team’s name and function, where team members can also add their own decorations and personality.” 

At the end of the day, the notion that offices are still required to house an entire staff complement is outdated for most industries. The reality is that factors affecting our ability to get to and provide a communal work environment are becoming more and more challenging – factors such as the cost of office space, the cost of office infrastructure and operation, the amount of maintenance required to keep those environments running optimally, traffic, overcrowding on public transport, and most recently the risk of exposure to illness.

The one thing we want you to take from this article is that this is exciting stuff and exciting times are ahead! As workspace designers we’ve been saying, “Your workspace MUST serve the way you work” for years and it’s exciting to see companies becoming more and more aware of this approach and their need for a different kind of space.

We really do believe many of these trends are already in SA and growing every day. Many companies are opting for desk rental options in collab workspaces. And at the moment, with many businesses deciding to implement remote working, we believe most companies, and employees, will see the benefits and alter their offices to suit the NEW way we work. 

Watch this space and subscribe to our blog to keep up-to-date, we expect to see many more amazing office trends coming. 

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Derek Stedman

Author Derek Stedman

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