Guest Post by Omar Nabi, Senior Director, Digital Sales, JLL

New data revealed by the BBC shows that 50 of the biggest companies in the UK are not planning to have all staff back full-time anytime soon. One of the main reasons given for the lack of a substantial return was that firms could not see a way of accommodating large numbers of staff while social distancing regulations were still in place.

I have been a big advocate of remote working, especially on cold rainy days in London, and having had the opportunity to avoid the Central line at 8 am has been a godsend! However, after 7 months away from the office, I find myself staring aimlessly at the walls craving social interaction. But what will it be like when I finally return to the office?

Well, the Internet is ablaze with stories, rumours and facts about what will happen to office space in light of COVID, from Google handing out $1,000 to employees to kit out their home office to Shopify founder Tobi Lutke proclaiming “Office centricity is over.” Whatever your take on the future of the office may be, there are some things that will need to change and will force companies to take action. 

Repurposing Space

The traditional way of using office space is no more. Fixed desks, closed meeting rooms and coffee stations will be replaced by collaboration spaces, wellness areas and sleeping pods (works for Google). Ultimately the office will need to adapt to this new reality of working from where the employee chooses to.

Contactless Environment

It’s not just your debit and credit cards that will be contactless anymore. The use of voice recognition (think Siri, not Ironman!) will become popular in the workplace for simple things like ordering coffee to more sci-fi concepts like opening doors.

Space Utilisation

One of the critical pieces of data needed in deciding any future workplace strategy is utilisation. How is the space being used and for which purpose? How many people are in the office in real-time? Where is space going redundant? Measuring utilisation has always been a challenge. But with the advent of (smaller and more affordable) sensor-based technology, measuring utilisation is no more strenuous than measuring how many steps you’ve taken today.  

Whatever the office of the future brings, the underlying fact is that technology has enabled it. (I mean, imagine trying to get through lockdown without your smartphone or Netflix!) Technology is helping shape the future of work. A workplace I sorely miss! What do you think the office will be like on your return?

Omar Nabi is a corporate real estate technology evangelist at JLL. The views he expresses in this blog are his own.