The work office “paradigm” was already shifting, but COVID-19 has transformed how working spaces will be used in the future, experts suggest.
Remote-working on a mass scale has transformed Brits' view of where and how they work, according to a new report from international law firm Withers.
The report, which features insight from 15 world-leading business and property experts, discusses the impact of the crisis on office designs and operators, as well as the shift in where and how Brits want to work.
Overall, experts predict there will be a dramatic increase in the demand for flexible workspaces and multi-purpose environments over the next few years.
“The days of whole office buildings being occupied by a single business or for a single purpose are over,” they said.
This will have a significant effect on areas like central business districts (CBDs) which were only built for one purpose.
The experts all envisaged the future of work will be characterised by a “spectrum of different workspaces” co-existing, from the central-business-district office, home-office working, and “hybrid” environments like suburban co-working hubs and local high street workspaces.
The hospitality industry – bars, restaurants, cafes, hotels, etc – will likely adapt to meet the demand for an additional space to work from, between home and office, the report states.
“It's not a case of you're either in the office or you're at home,” said Philip Harvey at Property Vision.
“You're going to be in a much more flexible series of interconnected workspaces – to be joined together through technology.”
In the future, office space leases may even be switched off or switched on and accessed via a mobile app like Uber or Grab, the authors of the report predict.
And longer-term, office blocks will be turned into mixed use “vertical villages” with apartments and work spaces, a deck, and food growing all in one building, they said.
These changes will be driven by the convergence of home and office life, alongside an increased desire to strike a better work-life balance – two things that have come under scrutiny since Brits adopted working from home as “the new normal” to combat COVID-19.
Other considerations driven by the coronavirus crisis include heightened demand for neighbourhood workspaces that offer amenities without the commute, and socialising; a change to business districts; and a new need for flexible office access that can be switched “on” and “off,” the study found.
“Despite everyone proclaiming home working as the new reality, people will still value the office as a means to get away from the home,” said Robbie Kerr at ADAM Architecture.
Smaller, flexible work spaces are likely to up where people can enjoy facilities that aren’t accessible from home, but don’t require long commutes to reach, he added.
Watch: The pros and cons of working from home