Will offices every return to how it was

pre-Covid-19?

The changes we are experiencing across, not just the construction industry, but all sectors, has a lot of people wondering what we can expect in the coming weeks and months as restrictions are lifted. However, the fundamental question that is starting to make its debut, is do we want things to go back to how they were? Is it even possible?

In a new world of social distancing, offices have been untouched for weeks and employees have not physically seen their colleagues for even longer. The economy has taken a huge beating with the effects Covid-19 has created and it is not surprising that CEO’s and business owners have indicated that the need to cut costs could start with office spaces. Property portfolios are increasing in popularity as the next step to managing the aftermath of Covid-19, which has been supported by the surprising adjustment many companies have made to working online.

While there are some industries that, only to a certain extent, can be completed away from an office or site, there has been the growing public opinion that is casting doubt on whether there is sustainability in working from home.

What could office life look like from day one?

Okay, lets look at day one. You have had the two-week alert that you will be returning to your office and you are making your way into the building. How will that potentially look?

An approach that has been widely discussed is staggering shifts. Just as we have seen the construction industry respond with extended work hours to minimise traffic onsite, the same could be put in place for an office building. You may be given an assigned time to start your day, on certain days of the week.

A big question on many people’s minds, is what extent will companies have to go to in order to keep their staff safe? Will a medical professional in a full protective suit insist on taking your temperature as you enter and exit the building? Just as the government is looking at providing restrictions dependent on the area of the country, lockdowns could quickly be reinforced if even one person in the office is tested positive for Covid-19.

Have we seen any successful progress across the globe?

The best way we can predict what is yet to come, is by looking at how other countries that are ahead of us in the virus are reopening. Construction companies may have to adjust to a whole new method of building, as new technology is utilised to ensure safety takes priority.

  • The Hotel Ottilia in Copenhagen has recently opened rooms that fully disinfect themselves each morning without the need for housekeeping to do the work. Partnering with the Danish company ACT Global, they are trialling the ACT CleanCoat technology, which is transparent, odourless and activated by sunlight. It utilises the main ingredient found in sunscreen and is very expensive. Although this may not be a piece of technology that can be used on a wide scale, it could create a new niche market for smaller chains and new builds.

 

  • The Wangjing Soho Complex in Beijing, has now invested in thermal imaging screening in the reception to determine body temperature of anyone entering the building. Yellow tape is being used to remind employees of social distancing and like many companies in Asia, hourly disinfecting of all offices is taking place.

 

  • Want to know when you can return to a coffee shop? Well, it may be a robot that serves you your drink. In South Korea they are experimenting with robotic barista’s that can ensure social distancing is adhered to while taking a huge leap in utilising technology for in-human scenarios.

 

  • A big part of social distancing that is proving difficult to control is monitoring everybody’s whereabouts at any given time. Managers can only do so much to enforce distance between employees but they cannot be everywhere at once. For jobs and sites that have a huge amount of people working at the same time, tracking badges could be a useful way to see if too many people are congregating in one area. In Japan, this technology is being trialled so more employees can return to work without the fear of social distancing measures getting out of control.

 

There is no denying we are witnessing an immediate and vital dependency on technology to help ease this new transition in working life. How offices are maintained, worked in and built will be hugely reliant on budget and whether there even is a need for an office in the first place.

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