Workstations in empty office

CRE Opinion

We’re Living Through Bizarre Times; Let’s Talk About The Future

Granite Properties CEO: The intensely densifying practices of “benching” and “hot-desking” are likely gone for some time–if not forever.

Well, the good news is that we all made it to May! We certainly are living through incredibly uncertain and bizarre times, but we will get through this and need to think about the future.

So, what does the workplace of the future look like?

Michael Dardick

Well, the short answer is that none of us really knows because things are unlike anything we’ve seen before.

We do know that an employers’ focus will be on the health and safety of their teams while trying to resume productivity. So, just like office buildings, there will likely be some basics, like:

  • Cleaning–more frequent cleaning of high touch areas and cleaning people are wearing PPE.
  • HVAC–much more focus on air quality through proper humidity/temperature, extra cleaning of air handlers, coils, cooling towers, etc., better air filters, and more fresh air supply.
  • Social distancing–designated “walk areas” through common areas, separation in elevators, reduced density of conferencing facilities, etc.

What happens after these “basics” is going to be interesting and likely iterative as employers experiment with what will work and feel right.

Some of these moves may include the following:

  • More full corridors with one way traffic in customers space and “health cops” to enforce social distancing.
  • Touchless or voice-activated controls on high touch areas like elevators, doors, bathroom stalls, kitchen equipment, etc.
  • Use of antimicrobial materials in new construction and furnishings.
  • Video conferencing even while in the office to avoid over-concentration of conference rooms.
  • Higher walled cubicles or added glass partitions to allow for standing desk.
  • Temperature sensing devices as you enter the office.
  • Plexiglas barriers between restroom sinks, and unfortunately;
  • The open dish of M&M’s is gone, at best, to be replaced with individually wrapped snacks!

Another big issue for employers to work through is the cross currents of work from home options, which will reduce densities versus “de-densifying” the workplace and reversing the decades-long trend of cramming more employees into smaller space.

It is safe to say that the intensely densifying practices of “benching” and “hot-desking” are likely gone for some time–if not forever.

The work from home debate will be fascinating to watch.

Clearly, we have shown that technology now allows a certain level of productivity while working from home. Many companies would never have considered work from home an option that may have a different view now that they have seen it in practice.

Most employees seem to want to be back in the office with their teammates for both socialization and collaboration. Count me in this category! But, some folks prefer to work from home for myriad reasons.

My hunch is that companies will utilize partial work from home strategies to deliver more flexibility to employees, to manage densities for health purposes, and to save money.

In a downturn, the “save money” category seems to hold a lot of sway! We could see companies utilize a “distributed” work network–think of a web of different working environments for employees from HQ to suburban to home workspaces.

Regardless, the human is a social animal and not only prefers to be around others but flourishes in communities–this has been going on for 1000’s of years and is part of our “tribal” culture.

See you around the water cooler. Just keep your distance.

Michael Dardick is chief executive officer or Granite Properties.

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