The lockdown has meant that office spaces across the country, indeed the world, have lay mostly empty for months now. As millions of office workers around the world prove they can work remotely, the shape of the commercial office space industry is going to change, at least for a few years. We believe office space will become cheaper, as landlords look to maximise utilisation. If you aren’t happy with your current office, this may be an opportunity to change your office, so we thought we’d look at what makes a great office space. Here are our thoughts…
Whether you are moving into a bigger office, smaller one, or simply reviewing your current space, comfort is key. You and your team are in the office for many hours per day, so it needs to be comfortable. Desks and chairs need to be ergonomic so they support your body whilst working.
Sit/Stand desks are becoming more and more popular as they are proving to be better for your posture and your back. To help you choose, here’s a recent review of sit/stand desks.
If you’re expecting your teams to work effectively, they need to be comfortable. You don’t need to spend a fortune on them either. This review recommends most people should be perfectly comfortable on a chair that is just £79!
Peace of mind is key to productive working. How safe your team feels when in the office is paramount to this. If you do have visitors regularly coming to the office, we recommend that “their area” is clearly defined. Someone walking through the office is going to unnerve people. Some door entry and access control systems now work via your phone, so there’s not even a need to distribute fobs or cards. Removing someone’s access rights is just a few clicks.
Taking “a few minutes out” can really make the difference, particularly when someone has been working solidly on something. If you have space, an area where people can simply sit and relax (can be good for casual meetings and lunches too) is definitely not wasted space. If there isn’t room, make sure that people know they aren’t going to be questioned if they simply disappear for a few minutes. After all, you’ve trusted them for the past four months to work from home! If you are a naturally competitive team, you might consider the classic table football or ping pong tables too.
A microwave and a kettle is no longer enough. You don’t need to go OTT, but a good coffee machine no longer costs the earth (Nespresso even does subscription models that give you the machine). A fridge is definitely recommended, as more people bring their own food for lunch and give them space to eat, so they aren’t eating at their desk. Getting them away from their desks and screens allows them to relax properly.
5. Work/life balance
After four months of lockdown, your team has probably worked out when the work more effectively and how long they can work in one stretch before they need a break. Encourage your team to continue this as they return to the office. If you have early risers in the team, make sure they can get into the office at 7am if they wish to. If they leave at 3 or 4pm, no worries. Some may prefer the other end of the day.
Products such as Microsoft Teams will also mean they can work from anywhere if they wish. As the schools head back in September, there may be a few anxious parents, or children, worrying about going back into crowded spaces. Ensuring your teams are comfortable saying they are going to be working from home for a few days is key to maintaining their trust and productivity.
As long as they are working effectively, it really doesn’t matter, does it.
Open plan offices are efficient uses of space, but they also mean that everyone can hear what their desk neighbours are talking about. More and more companies are installing privacy pods to make conference calls (video or phone) less invasive and more confidential. There are 100’s of designs available to meet your needs.
Hotdesking is something that is particularly prevalent at the moment. With people being encouraged to sit further apart, your internet connectivity needs to cope. Strong WiFi into every corner of the office is vital. Don’t forget to cover the relaxation areas too, as people want to sit with their laptops there for a while.
7. Physical health
We’ve all been encouraged to get more exercise and we’re advised to reduce our use of public transport (at least for a while), so if you have space, make sure there is somewhere for cyclists to put their bikes. Hooks or clips on the wall make it easy to store them with minimal footprints. Don’t forget the Cycle to Work Scheme – benefits for you as well as your employees. The table tennis table mentioned earlier will get people bouncing around too.
Something that is becoming more and more popular is walking meetings. Particularly in the spring/summer, you don’t need to sit in an office to talk. Get out to your nearest open space. Exercise, fresh air and winning a new deal – a great combination.
Have a look at people’s use of screens too. Blue light is proven to impact our eyes. At night, it keeps us awake, during the day it can lead to fatigue, headaches and blurred vision. Encourage people to work in a way that gets their eyes off the screen regularly and/or install blue light filters. Companies such as Occushield provide a range of products for all devices. Let people know they can get blue light filters on their glasses too.
8. Mental health
The lockdown has really brought this to everyone’s attention. As more and more people return to the office, it doesn’t mean that this issue will go away. We mentioned this in our recent article about home offices too. People who, perhaps, are still worried about returning to the office are likely to affected, as well as others.
Areas where people can relax, as well as work without interruption are important. If you cannot do this, perhaps a rule where headphones on means Do Not Disturb to help with this. Mental health is an as big, if not bigger, issue than physical health for office workers in today’s society.
We could have gone down the route of installing slides, meditation pods and artificial grass in this article. After all, offices such as Innocent and Microsoft’s treehouse offices have been fitted out at substantial cost. I doubt many people reading this will have those budgets, hence the more practical suggestions on how to make a great office space for your team.