Changing Office Spaces After the Coronavirus Lockdown

Changing Office Spaces After the Coronavirus Lockdown
A crowded office in North Chicago

Nobody took Bill Gates seriously when he was warning us about the unpreparedness for a pandemic. In 2018, during his Massachusetts Medical Society’s annual Shattuck Lecture, he said, “There is one area, though, where the world isn’t making much progress, and that’s pandemic preparedness.” Now, every sector of the world faces the consequences caused by COVID-19 – especially real estate. Tenants, landlords, brokers, and financial institutions find themselves in a bottleneck as restrictions of global lockdown threaten their livelihood.

Governments have issued lockdown and urged the people to practice social distancing. This has caused many companies and offices to look towards ‘work from home’ as a potential and only safe option. However, what will happen when people return to their offices? The pandemic won’t magically disappear, and people will still be forced to practice social distancing.

The office life of what we see now is most likely going to be historical after the coronavirus. Changing office designs now seems unavoidable. Ironically, substantive amendments would result in elevators, drawers, and doors that don’t need to come in close contact with humans to operate.

The greatest challenge lies in those commercial offices that have a stiff design and cannot spare additional space. Even though many businesses, where possible, would continue with the “work from home” practice, with lockdown restrictions easing, many offices are expecting employees to return.

The pandemic could change office design to practice social distancing until a vaccine is developed – the former option is less likely to happen at the moment. If and when you return to your office, things will be very different.

Since there is no guarantee about when the world can get rid of the coronavirus, small businesses and offices must alter their workspace to survive.

Imagine the economy is suffering, and by neglecting precautions, you put half of your workforce at the risk of a contagious infection. Doesn’t look good, right? Sitting side by side in fitted cubicles won’t be deemed ‘suitable’ for any employee.

Offices have only two choices; either redesign their workspace or make ‘work from home’ the new normal. As per the University of Chicago publication, nearly 34% of people were working from home by the first week of April, who previously commuted to work. The same percentage has been given by a new MIT report. This used to be a single-digit before the pandemic.

Many commercial offices absolutely require their employees to be physically present. This means that a huge shift will be seen in many office environments. Changes to work culture and office space will differ from company to company, and so will their impacts.

According to Janet Pogue-McLaurin, principal and workplace leader at design and architecture firm Gensler, “I do think this is going to reshape the workplace. Social distance thinking may be part of our DNA moving forward.”

If companies don’t upgrade their office environments to meet new health standards, they might lose it in the long run. Many corporations and commercial offices have practiced “densification” for a very long time to cut costs and increase productivity. However, according to Pogue-McLaurin, “Densification will take a hiatus.” As companies go on to practice social distancing through the spaced office, the real impact will soon start to show in the real estate sector.

Large commercial real estate services firms such as Cushman & Wakefield are taking office spacing quite seriously. They have recently introduced a Six Feet Office model that would practice a six-feet distance rule for stopping human-to-human transmission.

While the pandemic is still at large, the change in office space design seems like a viable solution but companies are trying different ideas. Other experts suggest that the office environment shift will also depend on the company’s individual needs.

Many small businesses and commercial complexes that cannot accommodate more space are looking toward other innovative ideas. Companies might work closely with real estate brokers and firms to meet their requirements.

With over 30+ years of experience, powered by Jameson Commercial can help you secure the best office space and negotiate affordable commercial building options based on your business size and requirements. In uncertain times like these, let us help you find smart office spaces within your budget. Contact Steve Goldstein at 312-840-9002 to discuss your needs.

Steve Goldstein  / About Author

Steve Goldstein / About Author

In 1991, Steven founded ChicagoBroker with one goal in mind. Help business owners negotiate the best possible lease or purchase for their commercial space.

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