Oaktree - Returning to work…

Business Insights

If the roadmap out of lockdown holds strong then there are undoubtedly boardrooms and staff meetings, socially distanced of course, up and down the country planning and preparing to return to the office place. No doubt there will be some trepidation that the move back will be “irreversible” according to our Prime Minister, and that everyone will adjust, in part, to a sense of normality and thus the transition from the ‘work-from-home’ lifestyle will be reactively smooth and enjoyable.

There’s no doubting that the way in which we work in the future, for the service sector of our economy in particular, will be a different one from here on in. Consensus suggests that flexible working methods will be adopted with employees reducing or eliminating the daily commute, often a tiring and long daily routine, in addition to enjoying a greater degree of flexibility in how and when they work during office hours. From the employer’s perspective, and to be frank about this, a lot will depend and rely on mutual trust and respect, and on an understanding that the ‘work-from-home’ employee will respond to the trust placed in them. It is to be expected that employees will flourish with these new freedoms and be able to self-motivate and discipline themselves to achieve all of their targets, objective and KPI’s.

We [Oaktree Interiors] have been designing and planning open plan and agile work spaces for a couple of decades now, so the idea of office staff being quite transient isn’t new. We’ve all heard of ‘hot-desks’, lockers, touch down areas, collaboration spaces/zones/rooms, etc. Many of the contemporary offices of today have these ingredients well and truly in the mix, so for these spaces and the companies which occupy them, the further and additional tweaks required to adjust for our Covid world won’t necessarily have to be substantial or indeed costly.

The job of a D&B (Design & Build) partner is to listen to how their clients wish to work in the future and then to transpose those wants and needs onto a floorplan of the space in question before coming up with solutions which fit the brief. The extent and costs of which should be identified early on so as to manage all expectations, especially when tight timelines are in place.

Of course, there are some office disciplines which don’t migrate readily out of the office space and into the home, disciplines such as larger sales team environments. Often these require a strong sense of togetherness, with several team members competing against each other for the next deal, thereby motivating them to keep picking up that phone! Often as each new deal is confirmed a loud shout, a ring of a bell, a pop of a cork might be heard; the message being sent out loud and clear to all gathered and to help create a positive and energetic atmosphere. Such an environment is impossible to create “from home” as shouting into a screen via Teams or Zoom just doesn’t cut it.

The lack of human-to-human contact resonates quite negatively for some, even the commute might be something of a much-needed daily escape it’s hard to generalise, but whatever the drivers, no one, in our opinion, will fail to acknowledge or accept that our lives, personal and commercial will be different for the foreseeable future.

So, for reasons such as these, there’ll always be a requirement for a central place of work, for environments which inspire and motivate and for systems, tech and physical spaces to be carefully considered and designed so that the challenges of the new Covid and Post-Covid era are managed and overcome. Our entire society will continue to march on, and successfully overcome these new challenges regardless, building on the achievements of previous generations with that same ‘can do’ attitude.

Considerately designed office spaces really can make all the difference and thus any eventual transition from home to office and home again can be as smooth as is practically possible.

Oaktree Interiors have recently published further advice on the subject.