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Back to Work Strategy: Safety and Productivity in a Post-COVID Office Space

Commercial real estate, HR and technology professionals are focused on finding innovative ways to meet the challenges of a post-COVID workplace through safe and effective back to work strategies. John Williams, Head of Marketing at Commercial Property Experts Instant Offices, considers what this means for businesses heading back into the office.

With more businesses looking to return to the office, commercial real estate (CRE) leaders are hard at work to provide spaces that promote wellbeing and encourage collaboration, while keeping appropriate social distancing and hygiene standards in place.

In the Short Term

As government guidelines on returning to work start emerging, companies must be ready to act quickly to get back to full capacity in a safe and responsible way. HR teams are using flexible hours and staggered schedules to reduce the number of occupants in a space at one time. Businesses are also increasingly looking to CRE professionals to provide flexible workspaces that:

  • Can easily be modified at short notice;
  • Account for one-way foot traffic arrangements and social distancing;
  • Cater for staggered working arrangements.

In the Longer Term

HR and CRE teams will also need to start looking beyond the immediate period of going back to work after Coronavirus and start putting longer-term strategies in place. Commercial property portfolios will need to expand to include designs that support social distancing at work, facilitate virtual meetings and allow for remote working and communication.

Social distancing at work presents new challenges for business environments that rely on creative collaboration, and business leaders are concerned about its effects on productivity. CRE providers can help businesses to address these concerns through strategic flexible office solutions. This includes collaborative environments that promote learning and knowledge sharing, while still following the government guidelines on returning to work.

Designing the Workplace of the Future

Designing a workspace that attracts and retains talent will continue to be a major priority for businesses in the post-COVID era. When implementing design changes to support health and safety at work, businesses can take the following measures:

  • Try out new concepts in existing workspaces and gather worker feedback.
  • Speak with line managers to analyse any impact the changes may have had on productivity and collaboration.
  • Work with curated experience experts to scale up the changes, while considering the different demographics and working styles of various teams in the workplace.
  • Work closely with IT to gather data about the usage of physical assets by occupants in an IoT environment.
  • Use this data to drive the delivery of creative modern office spaces that align with the world’s new way of doing business.

Priorities for CRE Leaders

The commercial real estate industry can promote health and safety at work by taking the following steps:

  • Identify useful data: There is a lot of people and property data out there right now, and it’s important to identify reliable sources. CRE providers will need to rely increasingly on HR data, especially when it comes to understanding how teams are using space, and how space can attract and retain talent.
  • Invest in robust data technology: Understanding and accessing the important data is a good start, but now we also need a technology environment prepared to handle a high volume of data. CRE and HR will need to address issues around data storage, quality, compliance, and end-user consumption.
  • Emphasise privacy and trust: With technology playing such a prominent role, privacy risks will need to be carefully managed. CRE providers must emphasise the importance of protecting and upholding privacy standards when engaging with HR and technology teams to carry out initiatives.