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Living with Covid-19: Nine trends to navigate the changing workplace

Living with Covid-19: Nine trends to navigate the changing workplace

As organisations start to accept they must live with the pandemic, WORKTECH Academy’s Q4 2021 Trend Report – based on the findings of nine research reports – has identified some core trends related to making the hybrid workplace a success. These provide important commercial cues for Fourfront Group companies – 360 Workplace, Area and Sketch Studios – as firms seek to future-proof their operations, and create opportunities to make extensive use of the design model developed with the Academy.

Findings from the Nespresso survey reflect the value placed on health, choice and autonomy among employees. Clients should therefore be more open to investing in design features that support wellbeing, prioritise flexibility, widen choice of settings for work, and hand more control to employees for whom personalised work agreements will become more common.

Informal and impromptu social gatherings will be increasingly important in the office, according to the Condeco report on experience and collaboration; and a key findings from the BVN/Cushman & Wakefield report on the future legal workplace is that law and other professional service firms will adopt an ‘install, not construct’ strategy – the trend is away from fixed infrastructure and towards flexible infrastructure. Taken together, these trends suggest fewer expensive, built-in settings and amenities, and more lightweight, modular units that are adaptable, provide ‘collision points’, and meet fluctuating and unpredictable employee needs.

Productivity is again high on the corporate agenda, after the allowances made for performance in the early phases of the pandemic, according to the EPOS report. So, workplace design that supports the ‘everyday athlete’ to work more effectively in a more complex, hybrid environment should be well received by business decisions makers. Improving acoustics will be a key priority in 2022.

Flexible space providers are set to go upscale in the coming year as the market grows – another opportunity for Area in particular to advance the design model of ‘activators’ and ‘identifiers’. And as more office buildings develop a ‘digital ecosystem’, as described in the Samsung and Schneider Electric report, planning new technology in parallel with new design as an integrated layer will become essential.

Finally, 2022 looks like being a big year for diversity and inclusion, as the paper by Perkins and Will on ‘radical inclusion’ suggests. Fourfront Group can run with this issue in 2022, by ensuring the needs of people with mobility, sensory and cognitive issues are included in every project. Such considerations as non-hierarchical geometry in spaces and user-friendly detailing will be important.

Going from pandemic to endemic means living with COVID-19 every day and in every way. Every sector of business must face up to the reality that there won’t be any fast way out of the crisis – and there may not be any full stop either.


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