Has Co-working Changed As We Know It?
Open floorplans are demanded in homes and detested in offices. There are numerous studies and articles on open-concept office settings, and most are a little on the negative side. Some claim it reduces employee morale and productivity, and may lessen face-to-face interactions as employees’ awareness of noise pollution increases. While I generally hate the idea (I love my own space!) it is what works best for our group. We can collaborate with ease and quickly update each other, allowing our productivity, creativity and efficiency to increase substantially. It’s definitely something I miss being in quarantine – I need my sounding board!
We’ve started discussing how/when to shift back into the office and it got me thinking – how will all these open offices get back in to the swing of things? Shared space is the point of this concept, after all. With employee safety now top of mind, will they struggle to put infrastructure in place in an attempt to provide the recommended 6’ distance? Will new hygiene procedures need to be implemented regarding face masks and sneeze guards? Will the dreaded cubicle make a comeback? And, if so, is this the end of open concept altogether?
CBRE recently posted a report “Covid 19 and The Future of Furniture” that suggests just that. The included solutions remind me of checking out at the hospital – everyone on one long, shared table with little half walls between them. It makes sense for reducing the spread of germs, but isn’t it contradictory to the collaborative purpose of the layout to begin with? Will employees feel comfortable returning to the existing set-up or to a new, retooled space? And what will the company do if they don’t? Working from home, when proven to be effective, is hard to reverse. It will be interesting to see how the bigger guys adjust and what permanent post-pandemic changes are on the horizon.