Taking the dog for a lunchtime stroll will be more common (pic: Terry Murden)
Expect a few changes when you finally return to the office, says JULENA DRUMI
As lockdown easing gathers pace it seems many of those returning to the office want to re-create the same level of comfort that got them through a year of home-working. From going out for a run, to the ritual of a lunch-time dog walk, so many habits picked up during the past year will change our approach to office working in the months, if not years, ahead.
Around half of small business owners (46%) anticipate their staff will be working from an office or official workplace by the end of the year and new research from Hitachi Capital Business Finance shows that small businesses plan to work from a range of work environments. For those that do plan a return to the office, the 9-5 working day will be far from the average that people were used to before COVID.
The study asked 1,032 small business leaders if they were planning to return staff to the workplace in the months ahead and, if so, what would be the essential features of the future workplace.
Small business professionals are looking to re-create home environments that they have got used to over the past year. Almost one in six of respondents (16%) would want fresh coffee from an onsite café and 15% would like to have a kitchen that allowed staff to freshly prepare their daily meals at work.
Office dogs are also set to become a permanent feature in offices. After a year of lockdown, when a dog walk was a part of essential daily exercise for many – the much-loved family pooch now has a place in the modern office. One in ten respondents (10%) said daily dog walks would now become an integral part of office life.
A further 1 in 10 believe that what is most essential for the new office space is a games room, having an office based creche or child minder, and an on-site laundry. Whilst 13% like the idea of there being a gym/ work out space and 11% have plans for a shower.
An end to formality
One in five small business leaders (20%) would bring an end to having a dress code in the office, letting workers wear what they want. The findings also suggest a desire to scrap the traditional face-to-face meetings: 18% would plan to install big screens for video conferencing, whilst 13% would get rid of meeting rooms altogether, preferring an open plan space. 10% would get rid of designated desks and introduce hot desks and communal workstations.
However, there are still signs of the lingering effects of COVID with cautious planning for the future. More than one in five respondents (22%) want to introduce big communal spaces for people that want to social distance when in the office and 13% think that they should have a designated area for people who refuse to have a COVID vaccine.
Hybrid vs. Office working
Those looking to adopt hybrid working were more likely to look at ways to alter the physical aspects of an office, such as more recycling bins, bigger communal spaces, more bathrooms, better kitchens, electric car charging points, showers and communal desks. In comparison, those returning to a traditional office were more likely to be focussed on more personal staff requirements, such as; a gym, a creche, a games table and a music system as well as bedrooms for working late and being allowed to bring their pets to the office.
Joanna Morris, head of insight at Hitachi Capital Business Finance, said: “COVID has taken so much from us, but it has also shown us what is important and what is not.
“Workers are now wanting those home comforts at work, the things that people have come to realise matter most through the pandemic.
“Hours usually spent commuting have been spent having dinner with children, walking the dog or getting more exercise. A happier way of working and a healthier way of living has been established through the flexibility of location.
“These issues all play out in what the modern office or workplace will look like. Home working for some may have been a temporary adjustment to a pandemic, but the positive learnings will endure and will transform the modern office to something that looks quite different to what was the norm before COVID.”
Small business list of essentials for office space in the future