The death of the office?
Short- and long-term workplace trends
Workplace trends have undoubtedly shifted because of the Covid-19
lockdown, writes Phil Oram, Regional Director at Crown Workspace.
But which will stand the test of time and become part of our long-term
working culture? Talking to clients across all sectors, a picture
is starting to build of what the ‘big return to work’ will look like in the
short term, and how it might look a few months down the line.
The short-term picture
First, let’s look at some of the immediate and short-term
issues for those who are tasked with redesigning the
workspace in a new, post-Covid era.
The hygiene screen. A screen to shield computer
users from their colleagues and prevent germs moving
from one workstation to another is pretty much number
one on the list for all businesses, and we can expect to
see them in offices across the country. But they are not a
completely simple fix. Already we have seen a shortage
of acrylic in the UK, leaving some companies with long
waiting times to order screens in. Fortunately, there are
other types of plexiglass and Perspex that can be used
to provide a barrier. The same is true even of cardboard
dividers, which are a cheap, if unattractive, short-term
solution for smaller businesses.
Then there’s a decision about how high to make
them. The average screen is 600mm tall, but we have
already received orders for 950mm screens that protect
users even when they stand up. Perhaps just as
30 Removals & Storage September 2020
important a consideration is whether these screens are
a gimmick to keep people happy for now, or whether
they will become a staple of office design in the years
to come. On the one hand, screens certainly give
employees extra confidence: most have seen them used
at supermarket tills and therefore believe they work.
On the other, from an environmental perspective they
go against the grain in a world where we are trying to
reduce the amount of plastic we consume.
Spacing between desks. We are seeing many
businesses remove desks to increase space for social
distancing, but many are putting these in storage
rather than throwing them away. This suggest they
view the current redesign as a temporary measure. The
new layouts are likely to stay in place for the current
months, but things could start to change again in 2021
depending on how quickly we develop a vaccine.
There must be a sensible level of response in terms
of office layout, too. In the supermarket, we are still
walking past each other. You can’t change everything
because once a day someone might walk past the back
of your chair. But people are that fearful, so measures
need to be taken in the short term to allay their fears
and get them back into the workplace.
“There must be a
sensible level of
response in terms of
office layout... In the
supermarket, we are
still walking past each
other. You can’t change
once a day someone
might walk past the
back of your chair. But
people are that fearful,
so measures need to
be taken in the short
term to allay their fears
and get them back into