Brad Simmons, managing partner with KAI Design, speculates about the form that the office of the future will take, to accommodate the need for social distancing as well as permanent remote workers.
With so many employees currently working from home, and uncertainty about when, if ever, they’ll return to the office, real estate developers are questioning whether they’re at a “pivot point” in how commercial space is designed and maintained. No one assumes that the current pandemic will be the last, so there’s a need to reconsider the long-term uses of common work spaces.
The “rethink” begins with taking a deep look at the nature of one’s own workforce, Simmons says. “It’s about trying to understand strategically what you need to operate your business.” The prospect of long-term virtual workers is forcing serious discussions at the board level.
One might assume that the move to remote work would reduce the amount of space required for the traditional office. Simmons thinks the opposite might occur, driven by the need to redesign the same or even greater amount of square footage to accommodate social distancing. The decades-long trend toward open plans and cubicles could be coming to an end, or at least be modified by a need to create more private offices.
It’s entirely possible that the current concern over office redesign is temporary. “This pandemic has shaken people up in thinking about distancing and personal interactions,” Simmons observes. “With that said, we’re only a few years or a generation away from forgetting this ever happened.” At the same time, he sees incidents such as the coronavirus pandemic as becoming more prevalent, suggesting permanent changes in where people work, and how their spaces are designed when they must come together.
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