The Office: 2021

Hybrid workplace models driven by the need for safety and efficiency, remote working and greater flexibility, will define the new year

Apart from disrupting our personal and professional lives, the pandemic has also taught us how to adjust and adapt to the stressful and changing work environment in our own ways. However, many of us are still struggling to fit into the new work culture while trying to feel safe.

Safety is paramount

According to Swaviman Das, Design Director, Space Matrix, there are going to be a number of changes in terms of office design that will be observed globally.

“Employees are now paying greater attention to safety, hygiene and comfort at work. Future office facilities will see an integration of digital technologies to take care of the mental health of the workforce. After almost an entire year trying to adjust to the new normal, several key issues and employee concerns have been identified that will form the primary guideline to help design future workspaces,” says Das, adding that technology will play a much greater role in everything, right from the moment an employee reaches the office premises —be it sanitisation, temperature monitoring, cafeteria operations or navigating through the building.

Employee well-being

Apart from counselling and seminars for mental health, Das says most organisations have started giving their employees flexible work schedules, paid leaves, safe and hygienic office facilities as well as extended work-from-home facilities that are likely to continue in 2021. “For instance, some employees can come to the office for a few days, and work remotely for the rest. This also allows the company to maintain the overall occupancy of any office within 30-50 per cent. The hybrid workplace model is preferred by most as it provides structure and sociability at the office while offering the flexibility to work from home when needed,” says Das. Integration of natural lighting, automatic climate control, biophilic elements and facilities for relaxation and physical exercise are going to become the new norm.


Remote working is key

Many employees relocated from the cities they work in, with the aim of staying safe and saving money to work remotely. “This trend is going to grow as cost of living in Tier II cities, suburban or semi-rural areas is much lower than the metros,” he says.

New roles

Also, a number of roles have become redundant and various new roles and responsibilities as well as protocols have emerged this year. Processes that were traditionally conducted manually are now being turned into digital contact-less operations through technology and this will require up-skilling of the existing workforce.

Changing workplace design

Das feels business operations will become a hybrid model featuring convergence of remote and on-premise processes through cutting-edge technology. “The workplace design will now highlight the aspect of safety and worry-free functioning for the employees and inspire them to return to work,” he says.

Even when the covid vaccine becomes availablel, there will always be the likelihood of other such contagions recurring in the future. The structural and technological changes that will be implemented to workspaces as a norm will aim to reduce the global economic impact of such diseases in future.

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Sagar Biswas

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