The Future of the WorkplaceSeptember 23 2020 | Dave Fardoe
Two pivotal moments in the history of the world – First we see the beginning of the 2nd Corona virus wave, and buried in that news, China announces a carbon neutral strategy by 2060.
It may seem odd to link these two news items together, yet not so much, when you think about it. With the second wave of Covid-19 the UK at least is saying to people to work from home; that by extension, affects the workplace and the demand for real estate. China is a significant investor in real estate. China wants to be carbon neutral – so will they invest in traditional office space that has poor thermal properties and consumes huge amounts of power from the grid? Or will they seek innovative designs that are super-efficient and leverage new technologies, renewable energy and thermal recirculation.
What about health? The Covid pandemic will be giving researchers a mountain of data – mental health, airflow, ventilation, filtration, home working, seamless transitions, urban transportation, electric vehicles – in a way it’s an exciting time to be alive, and for sure the pandemic is scary and we need to be mindful, yet we are innovative as a species and we will find solutions.
So what does it mean for the future of the workplace? Well it won’t be the same – Working from home will become a norm. Employment contracts will need to evolve. The high rise office block with dozens of companies crammed in will become less and less attractive – why would you want to work there? Great views, sure on a clear day. People will be craving safe spaces to interact, social spaces will need to be bigger and yet strike the right balance between space, collaboration, interaction and safety. To that end campus type spaces will become much more important – we have seen many of these tried out already; Google, Apple and Vodafone in the UK all talk about their “Campus”. Fully integrated ideas like the BA HQ, Waterside site, toyed around with the concepts decades ago and had some success. The downside was the feeling you were not being catered for, but that you were being quietly coerced into staying at the ‘office’ longer and longer.
Companies talked in terms of ‘Our family to Yours’ to make it all seem lovely and friendly; yet something didn’t quite click!
To make the workplace of the future will require a lot of thought; cyber security and technology integration will be key to success, and isn’t a bad place to start – moving from location to location on campus and off will be essential – how then do you provide your teams with secure systems access at every point they need it when you dont know where that point is?
Companies who invest now in those ideas, as we restrict ourselves once more, those who see the need we will have, and embrace the green agenda, the agile working, and agile social ideas, will reap benefits going forward. Those who do this in the most innovative ways, embracing the local circular economic ideas, will score top marks. China, has never been shy in seeing a good idea, it’s no wonder they choose now to announce their global Carbon Neutral Strategy. The next wave of investments will see offices re-fitted, less space used for “workers desks” and more around agility and collaboration – your office will no longer have the reach of a block or two – the world will become your office, everyone’s office. Companies and employers who see that, and embrace it, will succeed big time.