How important is the office workspace post COVID-19?
As businesses re-open post Covid-19, the question being asked is: do we still need office space now we have grown accustomed to working from home and the flexibility that provides?
We have navigated online meetings, and juggled work hours, kids and partners all in the same space. So why would we need to commute to an office space? Wouldn’t it be more financially viable for a business not to pay for space they don’t necessarily need?
While there are some obvious benefits, businesses and workers are discovering that being isolated and working from home, has had some negative impacts on mental health, company morale, creativity, collaboration, productivity and client engagement.
Teamwork and collaboration are aspects of a business that can’t entirely be replicated via online meetings. In an office people bump into each other all day, share ideas and help solve problems.
Smart managers understand that how a team works together is as important as the financial outcome, and that one relates to the other. A united team share their passion for a business and the mental health benefits of it are well studied.
Learning from other colleagues and mentoring younger staff are another way offices are much needed in these days of social isolation for many. Interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence cannot be developed via video conferencing calls alone.
A recent study showed that more than 80% of Generation Z and millennial employees feel less connected to their co-workers since working from home commenced due to Covid-19.
With one in three Australians experiencing social isolation, working outside the home and interacting with other humans is important for mental health. Colleagues often become friends and even family as they share passion for a common purpose. Positive relationships generate communication, support, motivation, and cooperation and cannot be replicated to that extent without a shared space. Talking to a computer screen can be impersonal as we navigate IT challenges and online meeting platforms.
Studies show that the two most important factors contributing to company morale are relationships with fellow workers and team spirit in the work environment. This obviously requires workers to be in the same space to foster.
Dedicated lunch spaces not only provide relaxation and the chance to get away from a desk. They provide an opportunity to socialise thereby improving employee bonds and creating a stronger cohesive network within the company.
Creating in a space outside of home
Offices are a space for innovating and creating. The energy that comes from being in the same space as co-workers is difficult to replicate in a virtual world as office buzz fuels and motivates, creating excitement around ideas, plans, and projects.
Creating in a space that is not the place you live in allows certain freedoms. You don’t see the dishes to be done or washing waiting to be folded when you work outside the home. It is easier to remain focused on what can be accomplished at work.
Many office spaces are now being designed to specifically foster creativity, something a home space is not traditionally designed to do. Moreover, intelligent, intuitive spaces ensure those who inhabit the area are fully equipped to do any task that is required of them.
As well as the physical workspace, people often find the commute to and from work can also be a productive and creative time to plan and review the work day.
Ginger, a mental health platform, reported that 70% of employees are less productive at home than at work. A new 2020 study states that “co-workers working from home negatively impact employee performance” and that “team performance is worse when more co-workers are working from home.” So while working from home in pyjamas may sound enticing, the reality is that companies are suffering and need workers to get back into the workspace and be productive for the hours they are employed, with the colleagues they are employed to work with.
The office is still an essential setting for establishing and developing client relationships. The space represents company values and culture which can influence clients when choosing who they do business with. Meeting potential clients in the business space is not only professional, but is easier to establish that relationship than through a computer screen.
In short, offices need to exist to foster collaboration and ideas that serve as the foundations for company and team culture. They create greater productivity and accountability, generate creativity and motivation, and allow for a better working environment. They may function differently post Covid-19 but office space itself is still vital to the day to day operation of future business.