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What Will Office Spaces Look Like in the ‘New Normal’?

Employees have gotten used to working remotely. How can facility managers help make the office a place people want to go?

For more than a year, many commercial offices have remained closed, with staff working remotely. Now as vaccination rates rise, more facilities are opening their doors and welcoming occupants back.

However, employees have gotten used to working remotely, enjoying the convenience and comforts of home. How can facility managers help make the office a place people want to return to?

When occupants do come back, they may not experience the same office space they were used to. The pandemic has caused designers to re-think office layouts for both safety concerns and productivity benefits.

In this video, Dan Weltin, editor-in-chief of the Facility Market, sat down with Hannah Hackathorn, Regional Principal of Design for Unispace to discuss what the office will look like in the “new normal.”

Here’s a preview:

fnPrime: Today we're going to talk about changing office space in the new normal. As more companies reopen and welcome their occupants back, we've been hearing different trends of percentages of employees that are currently working remote and then continue to work remote. After the pandemic, how much of the workforce do you think still will be working remotely?

Hannah: That's a great question. I don't think any of us really have a clear understanding or we can even say this is a certain percentage that'll be certainly working remotely. I think as you talk about the new normal, the definition of normal will be different for many different companies. You know what may what may work and be considered to be new normal for a company like Unispace versus other clients, it'll be completely different as well. So i think what we need to really understand is that I think we have a really unique opportunity for us to dig a little bit deeper and utilize this moment an unfortunate situation and change the way that we think about the office environment

I think in the past where people were thinking it's a lot more focused based. Everybody had to be in the office from 9 to 5 or sometimes even longer. And it was a presenteeism — you have to be there if you want to get a promotion or just part of the work culture. That's what you do as an adult, whereas now a lot of companies who didn't have the remote working policy or thought they couldn't operate by having their team dispersed remotely, are surprised to find the team has been quite productive and the work is getting done. Granted there's a lot of components that's suffering of having all the remote workers right now, but in general productivity has gone off so I think a lot of organizations are looking, reflecting on that and say ‘what does that mean?’

If people are able to do their work well at home because they have a lot of autonomy, whether it's places where you work, things that you wear, or even using your travel time to get into the office and able to hop on a call. Sometimes they can suffer with the people's life, work/life balance, but in general productivity has gone up. So we're looking at if we're wanting to bring people back — and there will be people who want to be in the office with their mental state and that's how they do their best work or they don't have a you know efficient work home office setup — so there will be definitely people who would prefer to be in the office whether it's five days a week or four days a week, but i think we need to look at it internally how their teams operate.

What is essentially a vessel that's going to help the team perform the best in what they do every day. So I don't think we can sit here and say “yes it'll be 20 percent returning back to the office or 30percent.” I think that that would be a little bit naive way of looking at it.

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