Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it’s no secret that needs and plans significantly changed for a number of industries — commercial real estate included. The pandemic not only revolutionized the world of work for today, but also into the foreseeable future, as well. But what does this sudden shift in workplace operations mean for physical space, including office design, use, and overall demand?
Many tenants are hopeful about a return to the office, although it is understood that this return also requires a significant amount of planning and preparation. Thoughtful collaboration between building owners and tenants will be required in order to safely address the challenges that lie on the road ahead.
As we step into the post-COVID world, here’s a closer look at how the needs of office tenants have changed, and how we can respond to them.
An increase in one-way spaces
Before COVID, we never thought twice about our direction as we strolled through grocery store aisles or down the hallways at work. In fact, it was probably a place where you regularly stopped to talk with friends and colleagues about your plans for the weekend.
Now that social or physical distancing is a part of our everyday reality, suggesting that people stand at minimum distances apart, traffic in common areas may need to be regulated. This could involve placing directional arrows on the floor or even creating one-way paths or hallways throughout the office.
Fewer open floor plans
Before COVID-19, the biggest trend in office space was an open work environment, which was designed to foster collaboration and creativity. Now, however, with social distancing guidelines in place, you can expect to see more barriers throughout the office separating you from your colleagues. This could mean an increase in traditional closed-off offices or simple plexiglass dividers between desks or workspaces.
More space between desks
Historically, desks have been situated pretty close together in offices, in order to make the most efficient use of space. Today, however, you’re more likely to find that desks are at least 6 feet apart (again, thanks to social distancing guidelines). For companies that don’t have the option of increasing their physical footprint, this can lead to more drastic measures, such as implementing staggered scheduling of its workforce, or allowing some employees to work remotely on a permanent basis.
No large gatherings
While the business world has always been known for large gatherings, such as conferences and parties, COVID has changed how we gather, both socially and professionally. While it used to be important for companies to have large conference rooms, new safety regulations will likely prevent these types of gatherings from happening (at least for the foreseeable future). Expect to see demand for conference space decreasing for your clients, and plan accordingly for their new needs.
More sanitary work environments
If you’ve found yourself focusing on the cleanliness of your workspace more post-COVID, you’re not alone. Companies are pushing for more sanitary work environments, in order to protect their employees. This means their needs will likely change in their buildings, to include enhanced ventilation systems, disinfecting UV lights, and touchless technologies.
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