We asked our shared office space companies to weigh on their wishlist for the office space in the new normal after COVID-19. Many of the recommendations were already trending in the workspace, but now the importance has been rapidly accelerated. We also predict these trends will extend beyond our demographic of growth-stage startups and small business leaders.
Enterprise companies are exploring a more flexible office space format, remote workers are inquiring about part-time offices away from home in order to actually work/life balance, and all in all, there is a nostalgia for the normalcy the workspace provides. Here is a recap of these emerging trends that we predict will be essential for our new normal.
How to De-Denisfy the Open Floor Plan
The energy of working in a room full of peers and leaders is inspiring. We’ve found there is a balance though, of comradery and personal space – having enough elbow room and legroom has always been important. Whether it be space for two monitors or a laptop, a drink, and a notepad, socially distant seating capacity leads to good ergonomic habits.
We had already seen this need for personal space starting to trend as members balanced the energy of working amongst peers and leaders with the need for breathing room and enough personal square footage to really get into your own focus-zone. (It can be hard for a sales team to take calls or a marketing team to brainstorming if their peers are sitting too close.)
Some of our scaling companies chose to de-densify by breaking out divisions into separate offices. Adjacent offices with glass in between still provides the feeling of proximity. There is also the option of popping out the windows between offices, perserving the division of space while also enhancing the buzz of energy and cross-functional idea-sharing.
- Another best-practice when separating teams by division is designing welcoming lounge spaces and break-out spaces for cross-functions to easily collaborate or work alongside each other. These shared spaces remove the silo-feeling that can result from the more traditional grid-format of offices and cubicles. Safety standards for the shared spaces will, of course, have to be followed. Including easily accessible hand-sanitizers, frequent disinfecting, and social contracts like not using the middle seats of couches or standing too close to your peers. Social contracts are always important in the workspace, and by the time we return to the office, these amendments will feel like a norm we are happy to instill.
- Within an office, design the floorplan so that desks are efficiently placed for everyone’s work style. Many teams in our shared workspace laid out their desks in alternating order. For example, sales teams like to have their desks facing the wall so their conversations don’t carry across the room. Some people like to work within close proximity to the door or terrace so they can easily walk around to keep energy levels up and to get a good stretch in. Executive teams and marketing teams often sit with desks facing, finding it is a helpful layout for bouncing ideas off each other. Engineers often need enough space and the right lighting for their computer screens, sometimes even choosing to create an L shape with two desks. By default, rearranging the desks with your team’s ergonomics in mind helps create the 6 feet of distance.
- If your team is working remotely, choosing the office days to bring everyone together is key for maintaining company culture. Positions that manage their own client base – PR teams, events teams, field teams – already work very well remotely. Many of our remote-worker members expressed the value of a flexible schedule balanced with onsite days. It’s still key for a company culture that there is a home base for the team. The onsite days are important for team meetings, training sessions, collaboration and comradery, and whatever else it is that solidifies the company culture. Remote workers also like having a home base to host client meetings. We do predict that the demand for flexible workspace and memberships will increase for teams that moved to the remote working model.
Incorporate Natural Sunlight and Fresh Air in Office Design
Sometimes the answer to increasing productivity and happiness is simple! Natural sunlight in the workspace has been trending; according to an HBR study in 2019 natural sunlight was the #1 factor for employee happiness. Now that we’ve spent so many weeks working from home, we predict the trend for natural sunlight and fresh air will become essential.
Fortunately, many offices are designed with a lot of natural sunlight and windows that open so you can get fresh air circulation throughout the day. It’s a shift in the priority list of what’s essential – fresh brew on tap has been bumped for fresh air.
Workville has the extra luxury that our workspace features three terraces in addition to sunny offices with windows. We know our members miss spreading out to work from the terraces, and we miss seeing them there.
Flexible Leases and Outsourcing Office Management
The demand for flexible leases has been increasing steadily, with some projections now showing a steep trajectory from 5% to 30%. According to a recent article in Recode: “Experts say there will certainly be an acceleration of existing trends in office real estate, including a move away from traditional 10-year leases for shorter ones or for flexible or coworking space (more on that later). Still, the nature of existing office leases will likely temper upheaval in the office market.” Flexible leases are an asset for several reasons:
- A large office with unused space is a drain on the bottom line, and bad for morale. Assuming that the immediate return to normal requires teams to rotate days onsite, the workspace should still feel inspiring rather than empty. This could mean having a size-appropriate space for the on-site team, and peers from other companies within socially-distant proximity. The perk of coworking spaces is the energy and outside ideas from the other talented companies in the shared workspace. It’s the same reason we used to like working from the library on a college campus, working in an office park if your company is based outside of a city, and spending leisure time at a local country club or swim club. Being around others is important, it’s just a question of managing it safely, efficiently, and cost-effectively.
- Outsourcing office management frees up the decision-makers to focus on the bottom line. The initial cost of leasing an office space is thousands of dollars (lawyer fees, furniture, and installation fees, broker fees, operational set-up fees, and your workflow time). The average timeline for the office search is three to six months.
- Throughout the office tenure, the maintenance and workflow to keep up the office is an additional cost. Recurring factors include utilities, maintenance, cleaning, furniture plus structural wear and tear, morale boosters, and amenities.
The costs and time spent maintaining an office are driving forces behind the shared workspace trend. Shared workspaces are move-in-ready, eliminating the upfront costs and lengthy search process (most research for a shared workspace can be done online, and final decision making is usually reached after a day of tours).
The pricing is usually all-inclusive because shared workspaces are able to negotiate bulk pricing for utilities, internet, furniture, and more. This also eliminates the need for the company to focus on office management – all of this has just been outsourced to the workspace provider.
The office trends outlined above indicate that many essential changes will feel natural, and perhaps, even like an upgrade on the office layout of the 2000’s. We are getting back to the basics of what people really need – the simple things. Comradery, a balance of independent and collaborative work time, personal space within a group setting, and shared space to come together – these are all major factors in healthy company culture. Above all other perks, sunshine and fresh air have gone from a secondary amenity to an essential amenity.
We Are New York Tough
Last but not least, we feel it is important to touch on the spirit of New York City. Workville is a shared workspace centrally located in Midtown Manhattan. The management team is also based in New York and is acclimating along with everyone else to the new norms of city life.
Workville’s team always had a proactive, helpful management style. Now more than ever before, the team is listening to their members so that we can take any stressors off their plate. Here is a quick checklist for the ever-evolving solutions New Yorker’s will need:
- Transportation is a big question on everyone’s mind. Workville is centrally located in Midtown Manhattan, close to every major transportation hub. We understand though that some people will opt for an open-air commute. Car sharing with your designated “quarantine crew” will certainly emerge for people commuting from the boroughs or suburbs. Within the city, moped, electric scooters and electric bike shares are expanding their footprint. We are keeping our eye on how the city will zone for these new transportation modes so that we can help you find the best route.
- Air purification is of utmost importance. Workville was proud to see alumni member Blocpower appointed to Andrew Cuomo’s task force. Blocpower was established in 2012, so they have the experience, which is the key to us trusting the solutions. When Blocpower belonged to Workville they were a swing space member (meaning they came to us while their office space was under construction). We had the chance to test out their air purification system. At the time it seemed like something for the Jetson age. The future has now arrived.
- Office buildings are creating consistent socially distant parameters; parameters that we are already used to following. Many residential towers have already adapted the 3 or 4 people max capacity in elevators. In grocery stores, people are guided to walk clockwise and to follow the footprints on the floor to ensure proper spacing. Workville will follow these parameters. We’ll also work with our member companies to stagger the rush hour flows in the morning, lunchtime, and evening. Creating a seamless socially distant experience just takes planning ahead.
Workville is proud to be run by a team of New Yorkers. The resilience of our city is incredibly inspiring; we know we are building a bright future together.
Trust Your Office Management Team to Adapt For You
We know that adjusting to the new normal also includes detailed safety guidelines not yet touched on in this outline. Deep cleanings, air purifying, social distancing, and contact tracing measures will have to be put into place.
As the managers of a shared workspace, we know how overwhelming it can feel to sort through these logistics. We are committed to taking that responsibility off your plate. Visit our website to learn about our safety measures per CDC guidelines, and how we are always adapting for the ever-evolving guidelines.
In the meantime, we hope this outline encourages everyone that the new normal brings upgrades to the workspace environment, and if done right, will feel like a happy reunion with our workspace peers. We can’t wait to see everyone.
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