How COVID Impacted Your Office Space Needs

A person wiping down surface area with cloth

Before the pandemic, the office was already shifting, with increasing numbers of employees working remotely at least occasionally. Once COVID-19 hit, more than 60% of working Americans worked from home compared to roughly 25% in years past. What's more, research from McKinsey & Company reveals that 80% of the workers it surveyed enjoy working from home.

What will the everyday work life look like in a few months, a year, two years? Since COVID forced most businesses to enact a work from home plan, shuttering offices around the country, many people are left wondering exactly that.

Why We Need Offices

The shift to remote work has been necessary, and it will continue to be. But the role of the office remains an important one. Not every employee enjoys working from home. The lack of physical interaction on a constant basis could impact company culture, morale and training. It limits the possibility of unplanned collaborations and restricts the interactions between coworkers.

By and large, we still need offices. How that takes shape will differ from company to company. The form and function of the office will vary depending on business needs. Ultimately, each business will face an important reckoning — it’s not just about how to reopen but how to plan for the road ahead and how to determine how much space is really needed for success.

Big Companies Leading the Way With WFH Options

PwC has conducted multiple surveys since COVID-19 swept across the United States. In June 2020, it surveyed 330 finance leaders and discovered that 54% of CFOs intend to permanently keep remote work as an option for employees that can do so. The research also revealed that while financial impacts and a potential global recession were among the top business concerns back in April, those worries have shifted. In June, CFOs considering the return to the workplace and operating in a changed business environments now list another wave of infections as a top concern.

That data is clearly reflected in how some of the biggest companies are planning ahead. Many have foregone plans to return to their physical offices, choosing to remain remote as COVID continues. For example:

  • At the end of July, Google extended its remote work policy through June 2021.
  • Outdoor retailer, REI decided to sell its previously unused corporate campus, announcing that it was embracing remote working on a go-forth basis.
  • In early August, Uber employees learned that they could work remotely through June 2021.
  • Microsoft announced that it planned to begin reopening physical offices in January 2021, a change from its previous plan to open in October 2020.
  • Twitter plans to allow workers to remain remote indefinitely. It also canceled all in-person events and travel for the remainder of 2020
  • Salesforce plans gradual openings on individual timelines for each of its 160 global locations while giving employees the option to work remotely for the rest of 2020.
  • Mastercard says it will allow workers to remain remote until they’re comfortable coming back into a physical office.

How Much Office Space Do We Need

How much space do you really need? That’s the key question. And the answer is going to be different for every business. For some, a smaller footprint will make sense as a portion of the workforce remains remote while others return to the office. For other businesses, there could be a need for more space to allow for social distancing and adherence to local regulations.

The most effective and efficient way to determine how much office space is needed is to rely on actionable data and data-driven insights. Unless you’re signing a short-term lease, you’re going to be locked into your decision for years to come. Given how tumultuous things already are, the importance of using data to make the right decision can’t be understated.

Space for Organizations

No one knows how everything’s going to evolve. Will there be another wave? When will people feel safe? These are questions on everyone’s minds. Businesses like Google, which originally planned to return to its physical office space in July 2020 and has pushed that back to June 2021, have made tentative plans and scrapped them as new information comes to light.

This makes it difficult to decide exactly how to move forward. Some of the possible trends we’ll see in the days ahead include:

  • Splitting up: Some businesses are considering moving into multiple locations instead of a large, packed central office to follow distancing and capacity regulations.
  • Shrinking the footprint: As employees prove that they’re adaptable and remote work can be productive, many companies are considering shedding some square footage.
  • Boutique space: If the office evolves into a place primarily used to collaborate and connect instead of working at desks, organizations may embrace high-end, amenity-rich, on-demand spaces.

Embracing flex is another trend emerging as businesses of all sizes realize that they can operate efficiently with less space. More importantly, many are coming to find that what they really need is better, more flexible space. Space on-demand, executive suites and private offices could all see real growth in the days ahead as businesses seek agile solutions offered by flex office space. Office Designing for Post-COVID PwC's June survey asked participants about some of the changes that they were going to be putting into effect when they start shifting back to working onsite. Some of the top responses include:

  • Changing the measures and requirements for workplace safety
  • Reconfiguring offices and workspaces to enable physical distancing
  • Staggering shifts and alternating workers to lower exposure

These are some of the biggest factors in how post-COVID office design will evolve. Adding barriers, providing ample sanitization products and ensuring that there’s plenty of ventilation and clean air are major design concerns that have an impact on how safe employees feel about returning to the office.

Approaching With Data

To get the best read on how COVID-19 has impacted your office space needs and how to leverage your space most efficiently moving forward, you need to approach your office space with actionable data. You need to know how your space is being used and by who. And that’s where 4Site shines.

By putting the data previously only available to companies with big budgets into the palm of your hands, this innovative sensor technology delivers the insights you need to best plan your office space needs. It delivers unbiased information to drive your decisions and inspire confidence.

What will the office of the future look like? It’s tough to forecast, but for now experts agree that most businesses will rely on a portfolio of solutions that include remote work, standard leases and flex space. What will your office look like? With the data-driven insights you get with 4Site, you’ll be able to envision it much easier, even during these unsure times.