Covid-19 and the South African lockdown have forced companies across the board to embrace strategies that allow their employees to continue working, but from home. And while this has been a relief for many, who no longer have to face the daily traffic grind and can work in their pyjamas if they choose, for others the work-from-home alternative has proven to be difficult and stressful, serviced and flexible office provider the Business Exchange notes.

However, founder and CEO David Seinker believes there will be no return to “normal” work processes any time soon, if ever.

“The traditional office space as we once knew is now dead. There are a number of reasons why this is so. Rather than a return to normal once this is over, corporates are going to have to entirely overhaul their thinking about offices to accommodate a number of factors.”

Unfortunately, the human workforce is going to be a big casualty of the Covid-19 lockdown. With so many businesses making a lot less revenue than before, there have already been large-scale retrenchments across the board, and many companies will look to take up less space at their respective head offices, the company says.

“Businesses will find themselves in a big office space with an expensive lease, and not enough people to fill the desks,” Seinker predicts.

Large companies will now seek to diversify and reduce risk, while also looking for smaller or serviced office spaces with flexible leases as opposed to five- to ten-year agreements. They will want spaces that offer other “nice-to-have” services such as cleaning services, information technology support and more, built into the lease agreement.

HIGHER EXPECTATIONS

“Going forward, employees will expect cleaner offices and better measures to ensure their safety. They will also be apprehensive about touching surfaces that others have touched before them,” says Seinker.

Those who can afford it will look into automatic doors and elevators that do not require users to even press a button. Those who are unable to accommodate this will need to provide hand sanitiser at all public touchpoints as peoples’ concerns about possible contamination will remain for a long time following lockdown.

“At The Business Exchange, we have implemented several safety protocols that will continue once lockdown has been lifted. These include all guests being required to sanitise before entering our properties, outsourced deep-cleaning by professional companies, social distancing through spacing standards, and the use of non-contact thermometers to measure temperatures of all guests entering any of our premises,” Seinker notes.

COST SAVINGS

“Businesses will have lost a lot of money during the lockdown, and will have to look at how to trim their budgets once employees return to work,” cautions Seinker.

Larger companies will try to better use their office space by reducing the overall size of their workspaces, so reducing rental costs, while others may adopt more of a hybrid model which sees most staff work from the office while the remainder work remotely.

Managing long-term risk will also become more important, therefore, corporate companies can be expected to seek more flexibility in their lease terms. They may even look to decentralise their head offices and possibly locate different departments at different addresses. Businesses of all sizes can be expected to reduce lease investment and overall property costs, including fit-out and furnishings going forward, posits the company.

NO MORE OPEN PLAN

The trend of the last few years for many businesses has been to put their employees in an open plan office space. While this may have looked good and been a clever use of floor space, it has meant that employees sit closer together and so are more exposed to the spread of germs.

“Before Covid-19 we already had a number of companies enquire about private offices as opposed to open plan and flexible space. Now, with Covid-19 and the heightened awareness around how easily germs spread, many companies are going to have to rethink their open plan spaces and find ways to keep staff more separated from one another in order to lower the risk of the spread of infection.

“The traditional office space as we know it today is no longer viable. Employees are going to be much more demanding of their bosses in terms of taking care of their health needs, while companies’ financial security is going to require smarter thinking about how money is spent.

“While it will never again be ‘business as usual’, we can certainly adapt to the new normal through a combination of innovative thinking and clever team management as businesses scramble in order to accommodate the rapid change in office space requirements.”

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