Post-pandemic workspace trends

Post-pandemic workspace trends

WHO has declared that COVID-19 is no longer a “global health emergency”. Let us find out what new trends will dominate the workplace now that the pandemic is gone

On 5 May 2023, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a statement declaring that COVID-19 no longer represents a “global health emergency”. Although the declaration does not have any immediate impact on the way different countries are currently managing the waning pandemic, it represents a major official step towards resolution –coming three years after WHO first declared its highest level of alert over the virusin January 2020.It will now be up to individual countries to continue to manage COVID the way they think best.

This means we have arrived at the post-pandemic world – the “new normal” that had become a buzzword over the last couple of years, is finally here. So, how is the new workplace shaping up?Are offices still relevant in conducting business? To this, we are now receiving several contradictory responses. When COVID struck, the world scampered for a total work-from-home (WFH) mode. As things gradually settled down with the advent of effective vaccines and the virus began to lose its edge, the world prepared for reopening. However, the compulsory WFH situation and the unexpected overall positive impact it had on employees and organizations alike necessitated a rethink.

Are the companies comfortable?

Apparently, employees all over the world were not keen to forego the advantages of working from home. And many are now outright reluctant to mandatorily attend a brick-and-mortar office building on a regular basis and for fixed timings. Faced with a never-before situation, companies projected visions of hybrid workplaces – a mixed mode of working that brought together the best of both remote and office working practices. From a cost-saving perspective too, the hybrid model allows both organisations and employees to save a lot of expenses.

But are companies still comfortable with the new concept? As vaccination became widespread and the virus appeared to be less threatening than it was in its initial days, many big companies seemed over-anxious to recall all employees to office. Some acted in haste and started sending out strongly worded back-to-office mails.Judging by their reactionsit looked like they were not ready to trust employees working from home. This approach was not liked by many, there were quite a few resignations and the mass resentment put the organisations on the back foot. Hybrid seemed to be the only middle-of-the road solution. Even then, as the pandemic looked to have totally subsided, companies again tried bringing back people to office. In India, companies like TCS rigorously opted for mandatory three-days-a-week at office. Leaders of Wipro and Infosys are clamouring for a 100% return to office. However, the overall consensus is for the hybrid model. But it is an evolving scenario, and we are yet to see what effect the new announcement from WHO is going to have on the corporate bosses.

Dominating trends in a hybrid workplace

This brings us back to the original question: what are the new trends that will dominate the workplace now that the pandemic is no-longer a driving force? Here are a few pointers:

  • The physical office is being re-evaluated in terms of its relationship with the workers – and how they would like to use it best. The entire objective of having a hybrid office is to optimise work processes by enabling the most seamless connection and collaboration mechanism possible.organisation, which in turn stimulates creativity and enhances productivity. Before jumping into a hybrid workplace model, a few practical considerations must be thought of. PricewaterhouseCoopers suggests deliberating on the following points:
    • What kind of work do we do?
    • What kind of workforce do we need?
    • How do our workplaces enable our people?
    • How will we energise and inspire our people?
  • The hybrid office will focus on offering variety and flexibility to employees. Tightly packed cubicles are out. Spacious, lounge-style, open seating plans are in. But, instead of the prevalent open-floor plans, cosier private spaces with informal common areas will be preferred. The workplace of the future would require casual meeting places that merges reflection with relaxation.
  • The co-working office spaces industry is set to witness a 20-30%growth in demand. Expectedly, we shall be seeing established corporates extend their operations to Tier II and Tier III cities – which means the commercial realty market will see a boom in such locations. A noticeable trend will be flexible and negotiable lease arrangements for the professional office spaces. As the post-pandemic uncertainties are still to fade away completely, and the economy stares at a crunch, corporates prefer a no-strings-attached relationship. Such relaxed lease terms, coupled with flexible or deferred payment plans, will be a win-win for both the property owner and the occupants.
  • The concept of remote/anywhere work has been effectively materialised by modern communication systems, collaboration software and user-friendly hardware. A seamless office space that aims to merge both the physical and the remote working styles must have all the enabling tools – interactive video conferencing capabilities, digital display technologies, lag-free internet access, individual and group telecommunication infrastructure, as well as information and document sharing utilities. All these must be integrated while planning the layout of a hybrid office.
  • While facilities are a given, it is also about caring for the workers as individuals. Mental wellbeing of the employees is going to be one big focus for all organisations. A hybrid workplace involves establishing a design and a culture for the workers to choose where and how they work best. Just like a comfortable office design supports wellbeing, such freedom over choosing one’s personal time and space of work provides a sense of empowerment and security. The new-age workplace will, therefore, invest heavily on the psychological factors that affect the workforce.

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