Workers are Welcomed Back for the first time in 16 months!
The 19th July is Freedom Day and offices reopen for the first time in 16 months. Back in March 2020 we were plunged into a working from home culture. Now on this day – the 19th July – we celebrate Freedom Day. The day that we can finally return to the office, see our colleagues face to face, instead of over Zoom, and enjoy office chit chat as we should. For many, this will be the first time they have met their colleagues in person, having been recruited during lockdown.
There would have been a cocktail of nerves, anticipation and excitement as staff walked through those doors this morning to an office so familiar, yet foreign at the same time. That moment will be remembered forever.
Freedom Day will inevitably be different for every company. Afterall, work culture has changed enormously in the last 16 months, it’s had to! Businesses have had to find new ways to operate in order to survive.
Having been forced to allow staff to work from home, we have seen a movement towards remote working technology, video conferencing, cloud-based software and increased cyber security to protect companies from hackers. Globally, we have witnessed the biggest shift in work culture….ever! Some might call it the work culture revolution.
As a result, going back to work on Freedom Day may not be quite the welcome back ceremony that we have all been anticipating.
Who Won’t Be So Quick to Return?
Understandably, there are companies that will not be so quick to reopen offices to full capacity. A lot has changed in the last 16 months and companies have adopted new work cultures. For example, hybrid working has become the norm for a lot of organisations. This is where staff work from home part of the week and the office for the rest. It means that departments can collaborate face to face, yet they remain isolated from many of their other colleagues.
The BBC recently reported that the likes of NatWest and Aviva will bring staff back to the office from 19th July but in small numbers or on a flexible arrangement. However, accountancy firm, Deliotte is increasing its office staff from 30% to 50% capacity on July 19th. Staff will continue to book desks in advance of coming into the office, but by September, the company is expecting have its offices at 100% capacity.
How has the Office Changed in 16 months?
The office interior has been through one of the biggest changes since Google decided to replace the traditional staircase with a slide. On this occasion, it was for practical reasons rather than to stand out and be different.
During lockdown there were some key products that allowed companies to create a safe environment for office workers that could not work from home. Items such as:
- Acrylic safety screens, which were installed between desks, at receptions, hair dressers, gyms and at retail checkouts. These wipable screens offered protection from colleagues and visitors, who might be carrying the Covid-19 virus.
- UVC air purifiers were installed into the HVAC systems, or used as plugin devices.
- Not to mention the numerous social distancing signage and hand sanitiser stations.
Incidentally, we recommend that all of these additions to the office remain a firm fixture in the post lockdown workplace. If the last year has taught us anything, it is that you never know what is around the corner. Covid-19 remains a prominent fixture in our lives and we still need to be vigilant, while protecting everyone as much as possible.
What will the New Office Interior Look Like after 19th July Freedom Day?
So, do offices need to change to accommodate this new reform in work culture?
Indeed, offices do need to change in a post-lockdown world! Our customers have been telling us that they need office refurbishments and fit outs that accommodate a more flexible work culture. This means:
- Less personalised spaces
- Increased breakout areas
- More shared facilities
- Zones designed for small group activities
- Acoustic panelling and pods to absorb increased noise levels from video conferences and training
- Pods for independent work time – when you just need to be alone!
- Relaxed meeting spaces for impromptu meetings
- Increased washroom facilities for hygiene
- Increased tea points and small office kitchens to reduce department and floor crossovers
- Better interior design that makes you feel comfortable
- Improved video conferencing technology
- More spaces for downtime, such as dining areas
- Better ventilation – both mechanically and horticulturally (by that we mean air conditioning and office planting)
Over the coming year, we predict many more trends will emerge that will really put into perspective how the workplace has evolved and what it is businesses and staff demand from their workplace.
Parting Words of Advice from Your Office Fit Out Contractor
If you’re considering an office fit out or refurbishment to accommodate your new work culture, then it needs careful consideration and planning. As an office fit out contractor for London and the Southeast, we are here to help.
First, we’ll arrange a site visit of your property to review its potential. Our project manager will discuss your requirements and budget.
With this information in hand, our office interior design team will draw up a range of mood boards, which will provide suggestions for the overall theme, colour scheme, finishes, furniture and lighting ideas. We’ll also include provisions for specialist fixtures, such as acoustic panels, office pods, planting and more.
Once the design concept has been agreed, it’s time for the fun stuff. We’ll create a range of 2D scaled layouts and 3D visuals that will show you how your office fit out will look once it is completed. At this point you can make an informed decision about furniture, wall art, colours, flooring, layout and more.
When you are 100% happy, your project manager will send you a programme of activity. This will show you what will happen and when. Then it’s just a matter of progressing the work onsite.
On completion, your project manager will walk you through the end result to ensure you are completely satisfied.