The Future of Workplace Environments in a Post-Pandemic World 23rd July 2020 | IN CORONAVIRUS | BY SBID

Work life, and the commercial landscape as we know it, has changed immensely. In as little as five months, the corporate world experienced a mass exodus of workers, who retreated to the safety of their own homes in response to lockdown.

Throughout this time, cloud communication has enabled businesses to continue operating remotely with relative ease. Indeed, many who were formerly reticent about the merits of working from home, are now reconsidering the future of their own workspace environments in a post-pandemic world.

With employees arguably communicating with each other more than ever before through virtual means, it raises the question – can employees still feel part of a team, when physically apart?

This is something employers need to consider before deciding how they recalibrate their offices. For whilst remote working offers verbal, written and oral communication in abundance, it does not offer us the wide spectrum of non-verbal ques that are essential to promoting productivity, imagination, and positive workplace culture.

Facial expressions, body language, gestures, touch, and physical presence are all fundamental parts of the communication mix and if we cut these out completely by working solely from home, then it’s only a matter of time before employees start to feel disengaged, uninspired and demotivated.

The solution is simple. We need to give employees the freedom to work from home or in the office, depending on which is safest and the most productive for them.

Build a better workspace, together 

For some employers, like Portview, lockdown has presented the opportunity to take stock of work priorities and adopt a more holistic approach to workspace design.  Far rather than causing the ‘death of the commercial office’, the pandemic has prompted us to reimagine a new one – one where employee wellbeing, community and culture is the central focus.

Whilst for now it’s important to navigate our way through the pandemic safely and responsibly, Portview has decided to take a leap of faith and invest £2.5 million into new corporate headquarters, which together, we will design, build and fit-out ourselves.

This not only signifies the dawn of a new era for us, but also gives our team something to look forward to during a time of uncertainty and displacement. It’s about empowering our team to collaborate and come up with innovative ideas that will help shape and build the new Portview.

A happy employee is a productive one 

In truth, it’s still too early to know exactly what the ‘new normal’ for office environments will be, but one thing we are sure of, is that a happy employee is a productive one, therefore, organisations must focus their efforts on elevating the workspace experience through thoughtful design.

By providing a functional, comfortable and visually appealing environment, employers will instil a positive workplace culture that employees feel safe, comfortable and proud to work in.

Connect with nature

From our perspective, we will incorporate many biophilic elements into the design of our new offices. This includes an external terrace and balconies, glazing, rooflights, and plenty of indoor plants and foliage, to help connect employees to the natural environment – a method that has proven to reduce stress and enhance creativity.

In addition, the new headquarters will feature a nurse’s office for private consultations, and a large state-of-the-art gym, complete with treadmills, spin bikes, training equipment, showers and changing facilities.

Give it space

The extra square footage will enable us to come up with an effective space planning strategy that will give employees the space they need to follow physical distancing rules. When the regulations are lifted, our team will then have the freedom to work collaboratively in one of one our many formal or casual meeting rooms, breakout zones or creative hubs. For those who wish to work from home, they can easily connect with colleagues through video conferencing facilities.

Each team will have their own office with glass wall partitions to help create a sense of community, openness, and transparency, whilst still maintaining a safe level of privacy and structure.

Take a stand 

Research by the Sax Institute shows that replacing one hour of sitting with standing, can increase an employee’s lifespan by at least 5%.

With this in mind, we will be introducing seating options that are more supportive, adjustable, and flexible, in addition to adjustable desks that will allow employees to sit or stand at their workstation. These ergonomic solutions will promote better posture and physical wellbeing.

Design down to a fine art

Carefully crafted, contrasting materials and textures often prompt engagement and productivity amongst employees by adding visual weight to a space and giving them a unique environment to work in.

However, it’s important to remember that high-quality, statement pieces need to withstand the test of time. Choosing the right materials and how to mix them – whether it be reclaimed wood panel installations, exposed concrete or woven fabric – is key to ensuring longevity and achieving an overall polished look.

A bright creative workspace can also make employees feel more productive, lower stress and increase wellbeing. Therefore, we will be looking to enrich our new offices with vibrant graphics to help stimulate the minds of those who visit and act as key points of interest.

Whilst the safest thing for us to do right now is either stay at home, or return to an office with stringent COVID-19 precautions in place, we believe that in time and with the right design sensibility, the office space will make a comeback.

For offices have a much greater purpose than offering employees a desk and computer screen to work from. It’s a social environment that reminds us that we’re not alone in this experience, for we’re surrounded by the same people, working towards the same goals, at the same time, in the same place. We can see, hear, feel and sense kinship all around us through face-to-face interaction and the quieter periods of productivity in-between. Offices give us the freedom to share a coffee with our peers and tell them of our plans for the weekend.

And that’s just something virtual communication can’t replicate.

About the Author

Established in 1975, Portview is a fit-out specialist that works with the world’s leading brands in retail, hospitality, sport and business to create award-wining interiors.

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