What Will Getting Back to the Office Look Like in 2021?

This June, the city is booming with excitement as companies prepare to move back to the office. And as more buildings step up to install new safety procedures and vaccines become widely available to the public, businesses are gaining newfound confidence in reopening their spaces. Businesses that operated remotely throughout the course of the pandemic are embracing the idea of returning back to work with open arms. The question is, how is that going to look?

Collaboration and the “Hybrid Space”

Human connection and necessity to interact are at the forefront of everyone’s thoughts returning back to work in 2021. The interest of redesigning an office space that combines the considerations of safety and accommodate collaboration has led to the new definition of a ‘hybrid space.’ Post-pandemic, human connection has gone from being incidental to being completely intentional. Over the course of 2020, speaking with coworkers meant scheduling a zoom meeting or sending a message over a computer. As more companies prepare to transition back to in-person work, they recognize the necessity of forming an office culture, and that collaborating with a great team is the ‘secret sauce’ of what makes working in an office enjoyable and fun.

One of the primary complaints made by employees working from home in 2020 was the lack of access to a ‘company culture.’ A general feeling of isolation was reported, as many employees have attested to missing their co-workers who they have not seen since the start of the pandemic.

Office design is now leaning towards larger collaborative areas and providing more flexible arrangements for team members who may only come to the office some days of the week. Cramped office spaces, where employees worked side by side in tandem, is becoming less essential in today’s spaces that opt for productivity over physical presence. Highly functional, intentional spaces, with advanced technological integration is what is expected in 2021. The features of a Hybrid Space are having furniture and furniture configurations that accommodate the style of work being adopted by employees, offering a flexible arrangement that uniquely fits their requirements. The hybrid space is technologically integrated, as much as it is flexible.

Returning to the Office Safely in 2021

We decided to ask members of our team at OFH how they thought returning and commuting back to their office would look in 2021. The answer we received was simple: the primary concern that was universally felt was that of safety. However, many believed that once adequate safety measures were implemented, they were looking forward to collaborating in-person with their team.  Social distancing, encouraging vaccinations for members of staff, temperature-checking before entering a building, improvement of building air quality and advanced HVAC technology are all joining together to provide a safe work environment.

The walls between remote work and in-office work have blurred.  We believe that going forward people who work in-person intentionally want to be there, and the offices they work in will be designed in light of those considerations. As we move forward, and more people feel confident to take a bus or the subway to the office, it will be the role of employers to map out how that will be done effectively. Once the hurdle of safety has been overcome, the first thing on everyone’s mind in getting back to work and re-connecting once again with their office mates in spaces that will encourage those connections and a culture of collaboration.

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