Research suggests that on average, most people will spend around 13 years of life at work. For many, a large proportion of this time will be at desks, or various workstations. Wherever we work, it’s important to ensure that our environments are equipped to support us physically. Indeed, as we move towards a world of increased activity-based working, exploring the evolving ergonomics in the workplace has never been more exciting.
One thing we’ve learned from working from home over the past year is the way in which our surroundings have the power to shape our lives and experiences. This is why I love the built environment. When we consider the workplace, our individual experiences of what it means to ‘work from home’ will either consciously or subconsciously shape how the workplace will evolve. The UK enjoys a unique landscape of architecture where a building that has stood tall for over 400 years can be adjacent to a building that is just 400 days old. It’s an eclectic amalgamation of ideas, and the future generation of workspaces will be inspired by the things that already exist all around us, as well as ongoing innovation. It’s a coming of age.
Over the past year, workplace friendships have faced a number of challenges as we were forced to adapt to remote working. Maintaining bonds and forming new ones in a virtual world is by no means easy and now that we’re faced with the prospect of returning to the office, what is the next step for these relationships.
As we begin to take stock of the last 12 months and the impact on society as a whole, one quantifiable positive result of lockdown has been the impact on our climate. Restrictions on air travel and a reduced number of people commuting has led to an improvement in air quality, with IQAir’s 2020 World Air Quality report for 2020 noting a positive change in 84% of countries. Coupled with the fact more of us have been spending time outside, standard of air quality, both outdoors and indoors, and the impact they have on our health is set to become a major focus.
The events of the past year have shown that our people are our most important asset. Emerging from the pandemic, businesses must consider how to return to the workplace in a way that puts the safety and wellbeing of the workforce at the top of the agenda, and employee demands are changing too. A recent report in The Times suggested that half of people would quit their current role if denied a flexible working lifestyle once we return to the workplace. As we come out of this pandemic, it will be employees, not employers, that have more influence over real estate strategy. Those employers that embrace their employees needs will be the ones that thrive – be this through a form of hybrid home and office working or through creating a better user experience in the office itself.
In the absence of regular human interaction and as a way to foster relationships between colleagues, businesses have been experimenting with how best to build social capital, for a whole year. With a new blended approach to working looking set to stay for the foreseeable future, building and maintaining social capital within organisations is crucial.
While many business are still understanding what post-pandemic offices will look like, one thing that is clear is the need for agility and flexibility over where employees choose to work. In recent weeks we have seen high profile companies such as the Bank of England and BT offering up their new hybrid models of working, with employee time split between the office and home. Others have rejected remote working with a clear statement of intent to bring their work force back to the office 5 days a week. With little input from the UK Government and the stay-at-home order still in place, it is difficult to predict what the return to the office will look like.
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