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The 2021 Roadmap to Returning to the Office 

The 2021 Roadmap to Returning to the Office 
24 February 2021
 

Giles Fuchs, CEO at Office Space in Town, reacts to Boris Johnson’s latest roadmap out of lockdown in England, and predicts what this will mean for the return to the office.

Giles Fuchs is a self-confessed serial entrepreneur and works tirelessly to create both financial and strategic opportunities for serviced office provider Office Space in Town (OSiT). Starting his first company at just 22 years old, Giles has developed a hearty portfolio of business and facilities management expertise apparent in his leadership of OSiT. 

 

Giles Fuch

Picture: a photograph of Giles Fuchs

 

The Roadmap to a Safe Return to the Office

 

Many businesses across the UK will have sighed with relief at the news of Boris Johnson’s roadmap for lockdown easing this week. Understandably so, given the impact the pandemic has wrought on the economy, which contracted by 9.9 per cent in 2020, its largest annual contraction since the Great Frost of 1709.

Looking ahead to a summer with fewer restrictions, many businesses will now be examining their return to the office and evaluating how they can accommodate enduring social distancing requirements, support disconnected teams and facilitate new and more flexible ways of working.  Some kind of return to the office, much craved by lockdown’s lonely workers, will be critical for businesses. But understanding what this return looks like and how to ensure offices reopen successfully, must be the first step UK businesses take.

 

Mental Wellbeing – A Second Health Crisis Brewing?

 

Workers’ mental health has been severely impacted by the pandemic, depressing and demotivating an entire workforce and contributing to a record fall in output per worker of 19.9 per cent. In fact, OSiT’s own recent survey into the effects of remote working on wellbeing found that over 29 per cent of respondents are feeling profound loneliness and that 37 per cent of employees have been unable to unplug from work.

Facilitating a return to the office, which fosters reconnection between colleagues and puts an emphasis on collaboration, will be vital for post-pandemic businesses. This may mean investing in an increase in break-out spaces for workers to safely socialise, as well as evaluating environmental controls, such as air and light quality, which have a profound impact on mental health. It will also mean sustaining the virtual connection between colleagues while a full return to the office is not possible.

 

Recognising Office Health and Safety

 

Recent research from Imperial College London has reported no traces of coronavirus on London’s public transport network boosting confidence in a return to inner-city travel and this is a standard the office industry must match to instil confidence in workers post-lockdown. But this must go beyond the basic steps of providing hand sanitiser at workstations and reducing the number of people in the office at one time.

Since the start of the pandemic, offices across the UK have invested in major infrastructural and operational alterations, implementing new technology and preparing to accommodate new workflows to ensure environments are as safe as possible. At our offices, for example, fogging machines, restructured floorplans and footfall management systems have been invaluable steps to creating a workplace that feels safe to our tenants.

 

Listen to Those Who Matter

 

Understanding just how we return to the office is a question that countless businesses are grappling with, weighing the growing desire for flexibility and of course safety with wellbeing and productivity concerns. But it is vital that both the sector and governing bodies do not lose sight of who really matters – the employees who, pre-pandemic, utilised office space on a daily basis.

As some businesses explore options from new office space to full remote working, it’s critical that workers themselves have a say in their future working environment. What is clear is that workers are craving greater flexibility, both in terms of space and working hours. At the same time, one of the greatest losses during lockdown has been opportunities for collaboration and development through personal contact with our colleagues. Delivering a workspace that can meet the evolving demands of modern workers will therefore be vital for post-pandemic businesses.

As we sit poised at the beginning of a return to normality, businesses should take this moment to evaluate how post-pandemic working should look. Many have queried the need for an office at all, though mounting evidence suggests this would be catastrophic for productivity and worker wellbeing. In developing their own roadmap for a return to the office after lockdown, it is key that mental health and safety – some of the greatest casualties of the pandemic – are prioritised. Most importantly, as businesses weigh up the right approach, it is critical to listen to workers themselves about what post-pandemic working should look like in the years to come. 

Picture: a photograph from one of OSiT's serviced offices, showing a feature meeting room with a giraffe design 

Article written by Giles Fuchs | Published 24 February 2021

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