Is your office ready for you to return to work?
17 September 2021
With the easing of restrictions across the UK, many offices are now reopening and welcoming back staff who have been working from home. Yet, the pandemic will leave a lasting impression on the way we work and some businesses may choose to make permanent changes to their office spaces to suit the “new normal”.
At the start of the first nationwide lockdown, working from home was unknown territory to most people. Eighteen months on, many office-based businesses have learnt they can operate effectively with remote staff. To capitalise on the success of remote working, many companies are planning to embrace a combination of remote and on-site working, giving rise to a hybrid work model. The concept will cut overhead costs for businesses and give employees more flexibility over the way they work.
In light of this, AJ Products explores how offices can adapt to provide productive workspaces where staff will thrive, whether they work one or five days a week in the office.
To support the change in working practices, companies should optimise their physical office space to prioritise collaboration and human connection by creating more meeting spaces and breakout areas.
If staff are working only part-time in the office, then in-person meetings and team projects should be prioritised on those days. In order to facilitate this, offices should be redesigned to eliminate cubicles and individual workspaces and instead create more collaborative spaces. This doesn’t necessarily mean conference rooms. In fact, casual meeting spaces that offer plenty of flexibility are often more effective as they can be adapted to current needs and allow for a more relaxed and creative atmosphere.
AJ Products recommends creating a variety of different collaborative spaces throughout the office. Each should feature furniture that is easy to move around and offer several seating options so employees can reconfigure the space to suit their purpose.
One of the biggest complaints people have about working from home is the makeshift nature of their workspace. This is where the office can provide a work environment that is far better adapted for employee needs. The focus should be on improving ergonomics and reducing sedentary behaviour by providing the right office furniture and an optimised layout. Active office design could include sit-stand desks and meeting tables, balance ball chairs, exercise bikes and walking treadmills as well as a floor plan that encourages wider movement. By investing in furniture that supports an active workday and reduces the aches and pains associated with sitting in the wrong position for long hours, business can achieve two separate aims. Firstly, incentivising staff to work in the office by offering a more comfortable workspace and, secondly, boosting employee wellbeing by supporting better ergonomics and increasing physical activity levels.
Businesses should also help workers to create an ergonomic home office space where they can be both comfortable and productive while working remotely. By promoting healthy workspaces wherever employees are based, companies will not only improve wellness and underscore their commitment to flexibility but, subsequently, increase job satisfaction and engagement among their staff.
Quiet zones for virtual meetings
Even as people return to the office and are able to arrange in-person meetings with colleagues, virtual meetings will continue to play a significant role. It will be important to accommodate these meetings in the office by providing quiet zones with good acoustics where employees can speak without distracting their colleagues and without themselves being disturbed by background noise. This may include adding acoustic meeting booths, huddle rooms or soundproof pods to an open office space.
By thinking about the future of their office space, businesses can reimagine a workspace that is better suited to new ways of working, leading to greater employee wellbeing, improved staff retention and, ultimately, higher productivity levels.
AJ Products UK is part of the AJ Group: an entrepreneurial company started in Hyltebruk, Sweden in 1975 whose aim is to create innovative workplaces for everyone. AJ is a full-service supplier of furniture and interior solutions for offices, warehouses and industrial facilities, offering everything from design suggestions and planning to quick delivery and installation.
To learn more about how AJ Products can help your business improve your workplace: