March 1, 2021 / By Dave Dickerson, President/Partner

Priorities for the Post-Pandemic Office

Last spring, offices across the country emptied out virtually overnight as states and businesses took action to flatten the curve of the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, with an end to the pandemic on the horizon, employers are beginning to plan for the full return of staff to a post-pandemic office.

Early speculation suggested that the success of work-from-home arrangements signaled the end of the commercial office market. That’s not the case, as we know now. However, the purpose of the office is likely to change. More generous remote-work strategies are here to stay, both to minimize population density and as an incentive for retaining and recruiting talent. Therefore, rather than be the primary workspace, the office will likely become a place to collaborate, meet with colleagues and clients, and access resources.

Before this can happen on a large scale, employers (also known as occupiers) and building owners will need to repurpose their workspaces. Designing for a post-pandemic future will be easier for new developments. However, existing spaces can also be upgraded to emphasize wellness, collaboration, and socializing.

Here are five ways that occupiers, building owners, and facilities managers can begin to invest in the office of the future.

  1. Upgrade your mechanical systems. Building owners and occupiers will need to ensure their HVAC systems prevent or mitigate the spread of illness. This may involve increasing the percentage of outdoor air, air filtration and total airflow supply to occupied spaces. Installing operable windows to allow for natural ventilation is also a viable option for creating healthier workspaces.
  2. Invest in technology. Technology will be a primary driver for enabling a return to the office. Expanding touchless and hands-free automation — such as occupancy sensors, motion sensors, voice or retinal recognition, and touchless pads for elevators and doors — are a natural place to invest in upgrades. To enhance productivity and wellness, though, technology will need to be embedded more deeply into operations. For example, apps, dashboards and technology platforms can be employed to monitor and manage everything from shared space use and traffic flow to airflow and cleaning schedules.
  3. Provide more space to distance. Dense floorplans with cubicles or open-format tables stacked on top of each other are out. For the post-pandemic workforce to feel safe, they will need to have more space between each other. Think larger cubicles with higher partitioning or open desks separated by partitions. This may take up more square footage. However, more square footage does not necessarily mean a larger footprint if employers retain generous work-from-home policies.
  4. Focus on collaboration. Designing for collaborative-centric spaces was already trending prior to Covid-19. Expect that to accelerate. Repurposing space to become an open, expansive social commons will support multiple work modes, including socializing, collaborating, focusing and rejuvenation. Look for opportunities to create spaces that can expand and contract as needed by integrating individual seating, modularity, flexible walls and other features.
  5. Design for greater flexibility. Employers will need to plan flexibility into their spaces if they want to accommodate a hybrid work model. More companies are likely to adopt hoteling by providing employees with temporary spaces they can book or be assigned to a few days a week.

The big question for building owners, occupiers and facilities managers, and other key decision-makers is where to begin. Preparing offices for a full return of staff — or even a hybrid model — will require a balancing act between capital and needed renovations.

The best place to start is by assembling a project team that can help define and prioritize needs. This should include the effort of a design team and contractor working collaboratively with human resources and other business leads within the organization. Having the right people at the table from the outset will allow companies to develop fit-for-purpose space designs quickly and efficiently.

Building owners and occupiers will need to be open to new design concepts and upgrades to retain and attract tenants and employees in this new normal. Your design and construction team should be able to understand your needs and provide a variety of functional solutions within a feasible budget as well as find innovative opportunities to support your culture.

How can Miller-Valentine Construction help solve your space and building challenges? Contact us today at 877-684-7687 or [email protected].