The future of working environments: organization, real-estate strategies and planning /

Although Covid-19’s implications are mainly short-term ones, it could also have a major effect on longer-term considerations such as work organization, corporate real-estate strategies and space layouts.
“There will be a clear “before” and “after”. That’s obvious. I think we’re going to change the way we operate, the way we manage our teams and providers.”
Latifa Hakkou, DET, Ipsen – Workplace Magazine, “Les DET sur le front”, March 2020

Teleworking

An estimated 8 to 18% of all employees in France worked remotely in 2019, a rate that is lower than the European average of 20%. In some northern European countries, between 30 and 35% of employees regularly telework. Workplace Analytics estimates that by the end of 2021, 25 to 30% of all employees worldwide will be working from home several days a week.

Management

With fewer employees at the office, face-to-face interactions will be limited and management approaches will have to change. A new model based on greater autonomy, trust and responsibility could emerge from these changes. Human resources will have to support this change by providing the tools and keys staff will need to learn how to work differently.
“Real-estate strategies will necessarily have to be reviewed, drawing lessons from this pandemic in terms of organization, social management and maintaining the sustainability of the business. Trade-offs will have to be made between renegotiating leases or moving to premises that are more in line with new requirements or future needs.”
Bertrand Renaudeau d’Arc,
Director of the Agency Department, Savills France

Real-estate needs

The pandemic and financial crisis could lead companies to reassess their real-estate needs. But this will not necessarily lead to a decrease in the number of square meters needed in the immediate future. While a larger percentage of staff will probably be teleworking, spacing constraints will increase the number of square meters per person required for employees in the office.

Workspace density will therefore have to be reviewed. Until now, the NF X 35-102 standard recommended a minimum space of 10 m2 for a single person, 11 m2 per person in a shared office and 15 m2 per person in a noisy shared space.

Workplace purposes

The pandemic also raises questions about the purpose and use of business premises. Many companies designed their offices first and foremost as shared workspaces. According to Workplace Analytics, between 50 and 60% of employees’ work time is not spent at their desks.

If employees work more from home, then the office could be viewed as a living space rather than a workplace, and be focused more on interactive work and sharing. It also has high symbolic value, reflecting a company’s values and identity. This key aspect could be enhanced.

“The pandemic has proven that some types of work can be done remotely without too much trouble. This begs the question of whether we should still have premises for teams of 10 people in the future. Are employees going to work more from home than they do now? Or will we continue to use coworking spaces? I think that the pandemic will orient us toward a different real-estate policy.”
Brice Boyer, Global Facility Manager, Deezer Workplace Magazine, “Les DET sur le front”, April 2020

User traffic

One of the main areas of focus will be optimizing user traffic and reducing points of contact. Sensors and beacons can help identify traffic flows and risk areas. Safety distances will generally need to be increased, which may for example require the widening of corridors. “Hands-free” approaches are expected to grow considerably, with solutions for automatic door opening, voice-activation and retinal recognition.

Agility

The Covid-19 epidemic struck quite suddenly, forcing companies to adapt on the fly. In the future, agility could become a major consideration in the design of workspaces to allow rapid reconfiguration according to needs and greater flexibility. The concept of “building as a service” takes on its full meaning here.

Equipment

Tomorrow’s workspaces will also feature specific equipment. Air purifiers, for example, will be essential for good air filtration and to prevent the spread of viruses.

Antibacterial surfaces could become the norm. There are several types, including antibacterial surfaces and worktops such as Sanitized©, antibacterial and washable fabric coverings such as Silvertex©, and floor-disinfection systems such as Ramsol.

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