The office and its relevance in the post-covid era – insight article by Harry Tettinger
No more business as usual
The COVID-19 pandemic is now behind us, but it has profoundly changed the world of work. Flexible work arrangements and remote work have become permanent fixtures, and the workplaces of tomorrow must adapt to this new reality. This is especially crucial as Millennials and Gen Z have high expectations for work environments, with flexibility being a significant component.
For many office workers, the lines between home and the workplace have blurred. Working from home offers advantages: the elimination of a daily commute, the comfort of one's own home, and the ability to run errands during breaks, but also brings potential challenges around distractions, inability to separate work and home life and a sense of physical isolation from colleagues.
The question arises: Is the era of central office workspaces in organizations a thing of the past? Will vacant buildings rise in city centers? Many commentators suggest this is not a certainty. However, the requirements for today's and future offices have evolved in light of the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. Human well-being is more central than ever, and the increased Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) requirements of companies also play a significant role.
Office buildings remain important entities
Offices must adapt to new demands, with a particular focus on the following points:
- Promoting social interactions
- Creating spaces for collaborative tasks
- Stylish, contemporary design High-quality technical equipment
- Low resource consumption with an eye on ESG credentials
The result should provide both employees and employers with the perfect work environment: an interactive, quality workspace that is adaptable to flexible work arrangements and offers a high-quality experience.
The office offers numerous advantages for individuals and organizations alike. These include simplified collaboration with colleagues and the formation of stronger social bonds that occur during in-person interactions. This leads to those typical "coffee break moments" that one simply does not experience at their home desk. For example, the CEO and the youngest team member can spontaneously meet in an informal meeting and brainstorm with other colleagues.
Studies have also shown that the separation of work and personal life positively affects mental health. It helps in developing and maintaining structure and routines, as confirmed by ISG's second edition of "The power of place: the consequences of inaction." The positive effects of social interaction and the absence of professional interaction are among the most important reasons cited by employees for not wanting to work exclusively remotely.
The quality of equipment also plays a role in the decision to work in an office or remotely. While many people already have good technical equipment at home for their work, office equipment is often much better tailored to work requirements. Additionally, the opportunity to learn from experienced colleagues was cited as a reason for coming to the office by surveyed employees.
These factors, along with the social aspect, provide strong arguments for working together in modern, well-designed offices, rather than exclusively from home.
How we bring it all together
To deliver adequate offices that meet the highest standards, companies must invest in their office spaces—sooner rather than later. These spaces serve as both a recruiting tool and a means of attracting employees to the office. Additionally, financial data shows that investments in office spaces are worthwhile. Companies surveyed in "Power of Place" that invested in their office spaces and flexible work reported revenue increases of up to 23.5 percent. Meanwhile, other companies reported a revenue increase of up to 0.5 percent.
The power of place: The consequences of inaction
ISG's latest research and insight report looked at the impact of current crises, particularly the pandemic, on the world of work from the perspectives of employers and employees.
Modern offices must, therefore, surpass the quality of employees' homes as workplaces. This applies to requirements for technical equipment, the quality of the workspace, gastronomic offerings, as well as sustainability and design. Decisions related to these areas should be based on solid data. Currently, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a hot topic in the workplace and understanding and implementing advanced technologies like AI will give employers an advantage and help operate their office environments in line with ESG principles.
Taking care of employees' physical and mental health can also be a reason to come to the office. Access to fitness facilities and yoga classes can contribute to a healthy work environment and be a deciding factor in choosing an employer and going to the office. As the saying goes, people go where they enjoy being.
The reasons for or against working in central offices are highly individual and depend on roles, tasks, or the state of projects. However, there will be no return to pre-COVID working norms. Organizations that understand this have a significant advantage in retaining and attracting employees. Furthermore, businesses benefit as well.
The adoption of new technologies and their application in modern, ESG-compliant offices is progressing too slowly. This is evident in the case of Germany, where more than two-thirds of offices are at risk of becoming outdated, according to a 2023 study by Colliers.* These buildings could become stranded assets and will not contribute to the climate-neutral transformation of the real estate sector. If we aim to achieve the 1.5-degree target, we need to accelerate our efforts significantly.*Source: Colliers, 2023