There have been countless challenges that have sprung up as a result of COVID-19, and one unexpected implication of the global pandemic is the need to reassess office layouts. As businesses shift their focus toward safely accommodating employees in this new version of normalcy, some interesting office design trends are beginning to emerge.

Post-COVID Office Designs

In order to keep workers safe, the designs of many offices must necessarily be altered, but that doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice the aesthetic or functionality of your space in the process.

How to Change Your Office Design

When it comes time to redesign your workspace, these are some of the simplest measures you can take to complete the process:

  • Reconstruct how work is completed in your office — During COVID-19, many businesses have realized that even collaborative projects can be worked on from a distance; consider maintaining a fluid attitude when it comes to interaction with your new design.
  • Consider in-person and remote options — Not every employee needs to be physically present in the office at all times; changing the amount of time that workers spend in the space would allow you to cut down on the number of desks and offices needed.

Learn how to integrate remote working in a future workplace model by watching our webinar co-hosted with Deloitte titled ‘Back to Business: An essential guide for reopening the workplace

  • Redesign in a way that supports your organizational priorities — Businesses’ most pressing concerns have shifted to cleanliness and safety; this means that your new design will likely not feature large meeting places, but will hinge more on the use of technology for collaboration.
  • Get creative with resizing the floor footprint — Don’t be afraid to make major adjustments to your space; it’s okay to ask overarching questions and rethink your entire approach to the office’s layout.

Armed with these tips, you’ll be able to better tackle the task of redesigning your office in a post-COVID world. Fortunately, many others are grappling with the same concerns you are, so there are some useful patterns emerging to help you stay safe without compromising your style.

Office Design Trends

Though offices are only just beginning to reopen in earnest, these are the trends that we already see emerging as businesses navigate the redesign process:

Workstations that prioritize safe physical distance

  • Workstations that prioritize safe physical distance — Whether or not various governments continue to mandate their own social distance guidelines, employees will feel safer in offices that allow them to maintain their space; this means that more and more businesses will be looking for ways to safely configure desks.

open floor plans

  • Open floor plans — Already a popular design trend in modern offices, open floor plans are easier to clean and properly ventilate. However, the closer proximity of employees in an open floor plan can be challenging for distancing so consider options such as staggered arrival times, directing office foot traffic and staging areas for elevators.

hands free soap

  • Focus on intuitive furniture, appliances, and finishes — Employees will inevitably touch many of the same surfaces as their coworkers throughout the day, so businesses are beginning to focus more on finding solutions that are antimicrobial, touch-free and easy to sanitize frequently to put workers’ minds at ease.

covid conference room space management

  • Adjusting conference rooms — Sprawling conference rooms with tables that seat dozens of people are no longer practical. The new trend for conference rooms will focus on changing their use and adding more small meeting spaces to offices rather than prioritizing one or two large rooms. Consider using smaller conference rooms as individual workstations for single use.

unique office design

  • Embracing unconventional ideas — If ever there was a time to think outside the box, this is it. Creativity is the name of the game, and many businesses are willing to try completely new approaches with their redesigns.

COVID-19 has caused a seismic shift in many aspects of life as we know it, and office design is no exception. Fortunately, these design trends will make it easy to rethink your workspace without having to compromise on the functional elements you love.

At Trimble, we provide real estate and workplace management software solutions that helping customers support their return-to-the-office strategies. If you have a need for new technology to help with your workspace planning and booking, you can book a demo here or post your questions to us via our online form.

You can read about Antonia, a fictional character, in the third article, titled ‘A Story of Reimagining the Workplace – Part 1′‘  in the Trimble Real Estate series of articles on the phases of the role of workplaces in the new environment of the CV-19 era.

Maybe Antonia should meet Kat and Chet, the Wall Street Journal’s actors in their return to the office stories. The fictional Antonia tale is from a real estate and facility management perspective with some new views on the purpose of an urban office today and the increased necessity of implementing new technologies. The new Col-LABS described in the article are repurposed conference places where some employees can come together to hopefully do their most productive, creative, collaborative work on a scheduled basis in a healthy building. As the architect Clive Wilkinson has described the workplace as theatre:

“For many, large innovative organizations today, the workplace has become a kind of theatre. The action of work becomes a play. Where human activity is freed from excessive management and control, work can become serious play and the associated activity becomes a state of flow. This state of consciousness called flow is an optimum desirable condition to be strived for in creative communities inspiring and connecting people and processes in an efficiency of movement and productivity.”

One can never question Clive’s understanding of ‘flow’ if you ever saw his design of a conference table as a beautifully curving surfboard for an imaginative workplace which becomes a theatre located just a short walk from the Pacific Ocean in Venice, CA years ago.

Then there are two recent stories from the Wall Street Journal which involve two other fictional employees, Kat and Chet, who are being monitored by the ‘big brother’ like management of their company. Information on their health, time spent in social distancing, as well as where one goes, what he does and whom he meets is being collected on these individuals. Remote working during the time of this virus, has inspired a myriad of news articles lately. One NYT journalist, wrote in early May of this year the reasons why this type of software is gaining popularity:

“With millions of us working from home in the coronavirus pandemic, companies are hunting for ways to ensure that we are doing what we are supposed to. Demand has surged for software that can monitor employees, with programs tracking the words we type, snapping pictures with our computer cameras and giving our managers rankings of who is spending too much time on Facebook and not enough time on Excel.”

The article goes on to describe how Adam, the reporter, downloaded Hubstaff to his computer to monitor his own work and movements over a 3 week period. By the end of his trial period, he found himself trying to cheat the software so it wouldn’t know that he was getting coffee and spending time with his kids. One is led to think that this type of monitoring does not exactly inspire either trust or ‘flow’ of creativity and innovation. Perhaps we need a new play where Antonia teaches Kat and Chet’s management some fresh ideas about privacy concerns, work and the evolving theatre of the workplace. More on this in the final article of this Real Estate ‘Return-To-Office’ series.

If you have an immediate need to address the unique workplace planning and management challenges created by Covid-19, please contact the Trimble ManhattanONE team for a demo or more information.

With businesses facing entirely new utilization and wellness challenges in the aftermath of Covid-19, next-generation technology will play a significant role in the ‘new workplace’—not just in keeping employees engaged and safe by maintaining social distancing and creating a productive environment, but also in maintaining buildings, maximizing space, and analyzing costs.

For years, increasingly sophisticated workplace management technology has been helping organizations to streamline processes and maximize workspace utilization. In the Covid-threatened workplace, that same technology is now being used to safely return employees to the workplace.

Next-generation Integrated Workplace Management Systems (IWMS)—such as Trimble’s ManhattanONE software suite—make it easier for CRE and facility management professionals to gain a clear understanding of the optimum workspace capacity for each setting. Integrated space planning tools enable users to model different scenarios—from setting safe physical distancing limits between desks to splitting common functions between different floors and/or buildings to reduce risk.

Before the pandemic, some organizations were turning their premises into “smart buildings”, using different types of sensors to provide accurate, real-time data for improved automation and control.

Today, sensors can also be used to support a safe, phased return to work for employees. When combined with an IMWS solution, organizations can leverage sensors to collect and report on key data for monitoring and planning workspace occupancy, usage, and cleaning.

With combined IWMS and sensor technology in place, companies can analyze data to plan and deploy a successful back-to-the-office strategy and optimize safety in a pre-vaccine workplace.

Sensors can deliver information about sound, light, temperature, humidity levels, air quality, when and how space is occupied, and how people interact in specific spaces. The latest advanced sensors use optical technologies that allow for artificial intelligence (AI), including image recognition and machine learning technology. For example, an advanced sensor with AI can distinguish how many employees are using a set of desks. If the organization’s seating density and safe distancing protocols are not being met, space managers can be alerted.

Adding sensor technology to the mix can help organizations to understand, in real-time, which areas have been occupied and need to remain unoccupied until they are cleaned and sanitized. This data can be used to auto-request cleaning and will provide cleaning staff with a clear indication of where people have been working.

Sensors can also track evolving usage and utilization, monitor policy versus culture, and highlight hotspots.

The risk of Covid-19 transmission is highest in non-assigned common areas which may have a greater density of people—such as lobbies, elevators, washrooms, kitchens and break rooms. The tracking capability and powerful analytical tools of ManhattanONE, for example, can monitor adherence to an organization’s safe distancing policy in these hot spots. The system automatically captures the data through integration with sensors or other indoor location technology.

Sensors can also deliver accurate, real-time data and usage that interfaces with the system’s space scheduling module. Space booking tools that rely on sensor data—like mobile apps—give employees the ability to find an available space quickly—or book a safe desk in the same area as a colleague with whom they need to collaborate.

To find out more about how ManhattanONE can support your return-to-the-office strategies, book a demo or post your questions to us here.

What does the office of the future look like?

How should you strategically align your workspace to the new reality?

Do you have the right tools and resources to address the needs of your workforce in a post-Covid-19 environment?

These were just some of the important questions addressed in a recent webinar hosted by Trimble Real Estate and leading professional services network, PwC.

With companies around the world urgently seeking solutions to the challenges now facing their business’s needs, real estate footprint and workforce strategy, we teamed up with PwC to deliver a live webinar on the topic of return to the office.

In the webinar, workplace experts Katherine Huh, who leads PwC’s occupier services team within the real estate practice, and Simon Blenkiron—our global partner director, products and technology—provided analyses on how the pandemic has added a new impetus to real estate decision-making.

Watch the webinar recording here

Katherine revealed that, for some organizations, the pandemic had created “a unique opportunity to reframe the way that they think about real estate, the workplace, how people work, and how technology is able to support that effort”.

Office of the future space management

Katherine said that many of PwC’s clients had found that productivity actually increased during lockdown because employees were able to get “a bit more into a day” with the reduction of commuting times. As a result, more organizations were now asking themselves: “How do we pivot our business to being a bit more virtual?”.

The webinar identified four main types of workers:

  • Full-time office workers
  • Team workers (who can do much of their work remotely)
  • Wanderers (in the office between 30% – 60% of the time)
  • Rovers (rarely in the office).

The webinar then addressed the question: What technology is actually needed for each of these types of worker to do their job efficiently and productively?

Trimble’s Simon Blenkiron said organizations should be looking into the next-generation technology that is now available to track both occupancy and utilization of their buildings. 3D modelling can help them design their way back to a Covid-secure workplace, he said. And sensors will play an important role in creating ‘well’ spaces in the new workplace.

On rethinking office portfolios in the post-Covid world, Simon explained he had drawn on 20 years of challenging organizations to transform the way they optimize their real estate. He said: “Organizations now need to look at the new target density for different types of personnel, apply cost numbers and determine whether it is possible to bring down real estate costs.”

He added: “Space planners and strategists must remain agile and above all responsive. We’ve got to help migrate the office from what it was, to what it needs to be.”

To watch the full webinar recording, please visit: