The death of the office or just a new era?

By Anthony Wolny | 30th June 2020 | 7 min read

The COVID-19 pandemic has led us to question many aspects of how we work today, not least the office.

Indeed, writing in the new Future of Work report, Robin Brodie Cooper, Senior Vice-President, The British Council for Offices, says: “The idea of the traditional office has been thrown on its head and challenged those of us within the industry with new questions about our purpose and objective.”

Lockdown sparks end for the office?

So, has this massive enforced working from home experiment sounded the death knell for the office?

People have been making this prediction for some while, but have been proved wrong, as Richard Kauntze, Chief Executive, British Council for Offices, points out, saying: “Each new development – the laptop, the internet, the smartphone – has led to claims that the office was about to die, that we would all work from home thanks to tech.”

Of course, it doesn’t mean they are wrong this time.

It’s clear from a number of surveys that people’s appetite to work remotely has grown enormously during lockdown. There’s evidence that many workers are looking for a major lifestyle change by moving house further from their offices, believing they will be able to work from home more in future.

Indeed, the Telegraph reported recently that Ministers are exploring the idea of making working from home a legal right – following in the footsteps of moves in Germany right now.

Why does the office have a future?

Mr Kauntze argues there are myriad reasons why the latest predictions of the office’s demise are premature – and lists the advantages of working in an office, including:

  • They allow us to build relationships and “create genuine networks of support”
  • in-person chats over coffee which help foster new ideas
  • Layouts enable groups to collaborate effectively and aid work

What will the future office look like?

Mr Brodie-Cooper believes that in the long-term, the pandemic can “help us reshape our industry, and build better offices for the people who work within them.”

So, if offices are going to survive and thrive in the age of the coronavirus and beyond, how will they adapt and alter?

Initially, we are looking at things like screens for receptionists and touchless toilets. Employers must comply with the Government’s new COVID-secure guidelines.

Mr Kauntze says longer term it means “new technologies and designs that promote airflow and create environments that are hostile to viruses. Offices will have to be designed to even higher standards.”

Want to learn more?

The Future of Work report can be read in full here.