The New Office
Hello dear reader, it is day 243435 of the quarantine. If you are like me you have been working from home for the entirety of this crisis and are probably getting used to it, but deep inside you are wondering “when will I get to go back to the office?”
It might seem weird but a lot of us are missing work. It is not the daily, one hour commute or having to wake up super early to get ready. What we are missing is socialization, we miss our coworkers, we miss our desks, we miss our routine. As the days go by we think about the day when we finally get to go back to our old routine. However, the more I think about it becomes less a question of when and more of a question of if.
I am not saying you are going to lose your job, I sincerely hope you do not, what I am saying is that the office you miss going to might not exist anymore. Your job might decide that its workers are so efficient that office space is no longer needed and might decide to go completely remote. Going remote reduces one of businesses' highest expenses, real estate.
But let’s say your job decides it wants to keep that office open, well those places are not gonna be the same. The virus has changed how we see the world, suddenly everyone is a potential carrier of deadly disease, office buildings management will have to adjust to this new reality.
You can expect to see a lot more automatic doors, voice-activated elevators, and more efficient ventilation systems. We will take no chances, COVID-19 is the game-changer of the century and our world will change to adjust to it.
COVID-19 has changed the world in more ways than you can imagine, at least until a vaccine is developed.
Working From Home
Working from home has become the new normal for many of us. Companies have seen that their employees can be just as efficient working remotely as they are at the office. I mean sure, they might watch more Friends episodes during work hours, but they are also getting more done.
After seeing this many companies will be tempted to forego office space and let their employees work remotely. During these times companies have lost lots of business, a good way to make up for these losses is a reduction in non-essential expenses such as a real estate.
We have entered a new era of the American office, one in which we do almost everything remotely at higher efficiency. The longer people work from home the more they will get used to it and the more they will produce.
Office space will change, it has to change to prevent another outbreak. I’m gonna be completely honest here, I have always hated the “open office” concept. While I very much appreciate being able to bounce ideas off my coworkers right then and there, sometimes I want to be alone and open offices do not allow that. Offices will have to adjust to social distancing guidelines, this means fewer people per square footage thus providing everyone with more space and privacy. Hell, we might even go back to working in cubicles, talk about Throwback Thursday.
Having to space people out also means either spending more on real estate, in order to get around this some firms might go completely remote or might make some positions remote only. Whatever space companies had before will not be enough after all of this and they have now seen how productive people can be while working from home. Limiting the number of people who come to the office not only affords companies the space they need but also prevents the spread of the virus by having fewer potential carriers together at once.
With massive layoffs and more of their staff working remotely companies might forego real estate altogether. By removing office space businesses can cut a huge expense from their books and invest that money on other things such as better equipment for their remote employees.
If your remote employees do not have a strong enough wifi signal buying boosters for them might seem like a solid investment.
Cutting real estate expenses will also free up capital to buy new computers, new programs that will make work easier, and hell even higher wages are a possibility.
The possibility of office space being phased out is now more real than ever. With companies having been hurt financially by the pandemic saving money anywhere they can is crucial. This might lead to a lot of layoffs and pain as well, unfortunately.
Coworking Spaces Might Benefit
Say that you have gotten rid of your office space, but you still need a space where you can have team and client meetings that is not your laptop, enter coworking spaces.
Some smaller firms were already moving towards coworking spaces before all this began, it offered a cheap alternative to real estate. Affinity Culture ourselves have taken advantage of the flexibility of coworking spaces in the past, and I personally know a number of agencies that have been doing this for years with great success.
Coworking spaces will have to adapt to new social distancing guidelines, that means no more communal areas but rather rows of desks keeping people six feet away from each other. Private offices and desks might be in higher demand so I would expect a small price hike on them but I wouldn’t expect it to be too high, they still have to compete with actual office buildings.
With an uptick on members, coworking spaces will have to increase their cleaning and disinfecting methods in order to keep a good reputation. Once this is all over nobody is going to go to the coworking space that doesn’t clean its stations thoroughly.
Who knows, WeWork might actually make a comeback after all this is over.
We are not going back to normal, not now, not after we get a vaccine, not ever. Expect people to practice social distancing for at least another decade, for better or worse. Don’t be surprised when more people wear masks out and if fewer people use public transportation.
The pandemic has shown us just how fragile our world is and how quickly businesses need to adapt to stay afloat.
With all the bad that the virus has brought, we can at least rejoice on knowing that our gym shorts and yoga pants will likely continue to be our official work clothes for years to come.
Stay safe, wash your hands, and support your community.