Employees foresee changes in workplace design in post-Covid world

Majority of the employees believe a return to the workplace is vital for successful business operations. However, they also foresee a long-term impact on office design and the need for its reconfiguration for agile working, said an expert.

Majority of the employees (87 per cent) believe a return to the workplace is vital for the successful business operations especially to conduct client, and one-on-one meetings, according to a survey by Savills, a leading global real estate advisor. 
Nearly two years since the onset of the pandemic, the physical office space still remains a necessity for companies to operate successfully, said the respondents in the Office Fit Survey 2021, a study carried out by Savills to understand how perceptions around workplaces have changed since the pandemic. 
However, the majority of respondents believe that there will be a long-term impact on the design and size of the workplace. High-density, open plan workspaces will need to be rethought and reconfigured to allow for agile working, they stated.
The Savills Office Fit Survey was first launched in 2020 with the goal of providing practical insights and design-led advice to owners and occupiers regarding their workplace strategy during the pandemic.
This year's survey analysed responses from 100,000 participants including landlords, tenants, and office workers across EMEA to ascertain post-pandemic trends.
It revealed a strong preference among respondents for returning to a predominantly office-based work environment but with a fair degree of flexibility. 
As employees require a space to focus on tasks, engage and collaborate with co-workers, companies will need to create workplaces that can provide them with micro-environments that can facilitate these activities. Instilling a work-life balance is now more critical than ever, with a renewed focus on both physical and mental health, it added.
Savills Middle East CEO Steven Morgan said: "The findings of our survey echo the trends we are witnessing around the world, as employers welcome back employees to the workplace while they take a relook at how traditional workplaces are configured."
"The benefits and preference for the office have clearly emerged – for employers it is the place where the company’s culture can be developed and protected, and for employees it is where they can benefit from collaborative opportunities to advance their careers. However, the office must now provide more of the benefits of home working, such as physical health and a better work-life balance, as respondents believe these are better achieved at home," he stated.
Prior to the release of the Office Fit survey findings, Savills Middle East hosted a panel discussion on the Future of Work at District 2020, within Expo 2020. 
The panel discussion, moderated by Richard Paul, Head of Professional Services and Consultancy at Savills Middle East, examined how the hybrid working model will evolve and adapt over the next year. 
Besides Morgan, the panel included contributions from Christopher Payne, Chief Economist, Peninsula Real Estate Management; Ben Corrigan, CEO and Founder, Bluehaus Group; Nadimeh Mehra, Vice President, District 2020 and Julien Romanet, Deputy Head of Global Real Estate, Gulf Islamic Investments.
Commenting on key takeaways from the discussion, Richard Paul, Head of Professional Services and Consultancy at Savills said: "The discussion's central theme was the increased emphasis on people. The pandemic demonstrated that working from home or outside of a traditional office can be successful when supported by technology."
"However, to sustain an organisation's culture over time, human interaction is critical. Our esteemed panellists unanimously agreed that the office remains critical, however, there is a growing preference for a flexible, agile, and hybrid workplace," stated Paul. 
"It remains to be seen whether the world returns to working from the office full-time or if hybrid working is here to stay. In any case, businesses have begun to consider providing employees with an environment that motivates them to come to work and feel fulfilled on a personal and professional level," he added.