Understanding COVID’s Impact on the Office Environment

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way almost every single business operated in 2020. While some companies are slowly settling back into their old ways of doing things, many more are still trying to figure out what their next steps will be and considering permanent changes for the future.  

This is especially true for businesses set in an office environment. In March of 2020, leaders sent their employees home to work for what they believed would be a few weeks that slowly turned into months.

As you look ahead to planning for 2021 and beyond, you’re probably wondering how the pandemic will impact your future operations. The truth is that every office will have a different strategy, but take a look at some of the trends experts expect to see in a post-COVID-19 world. 

Downsizing May Be in the Future

Before the pandemic began, FlexJobs, along with Global Workplace Analytics, found that working from home was becoming more and more common with each passing year. Between 2015 and 2020, telecommuting was up 44%. Their analysis found that as of February 2020, 4.7 million people worked remotely and that it offered many benefits for both employees and employers, such as: 

  • Attracting new talent 
  • Better job satisfaction 
  • Community improvement (positive impacts on real estate and the environment) 
  • Improved employee health/less sick days taken 
  • Increased employee morale 
  • Increased productivity 
  • Larger salaries/more money saved on both ends. 
  • The ability for a company to retain employees 

By June 2020, three months after the pandemic began, Stanford University found that about 42% of the entire US labor force was working from home. According to NPR, this number will grow as working from home, either full-time or part-time, becomes the norm. Companies are noticing how much money they can save by downsizing their expensive office space.  According to Global Workplace Analytics, even having an employee work from home part-time can save an office $11,000. For this reason, downsizing a business’s office space may be one of the biggest changes that take place in 2021.

Open Offices and Collaboration Spaces Will Look Different

Open office concepts have been on the rise since the 1980s. The fact is that while most employers think they increase productivity, many employees find that they hamper it. Many studies and surveys have shown that workers in open offices feel they lack privacy, find it hard to concentrate, and are too distracted. These workers even collaborate less than those who don’t work in this type of environment. COVID-19 may be what changes this concept for the better. 

For many people, social distancing and taking other steps to avoid germs and stay healthy will remain long after the pandemic, especially at times like flu season. Businesses will have no choice but to appease this heightened sense of awareness by doing away with limiting open concepts and utilizing options like cubicles, partitions, and private offices to provide space.  

Technology Will Play a Bigger Role in Meetings

Technology already played major a role in how your teams communicated – whether in the office or working from home – and this will only continue to grow in the new year. Expect large in-person meetings to continue to decrease unless absolutely necessary. In their place, tools like Zoom, Webex, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Skype, and GoToMeeting will be the way employees and clients meet, whether it’s a one-on-one conference or 50 employees joining together.  

In a world where many people are working from home and using these apps to check in with their managers and colleagues, competence and productivity are more important than presentation. Some companies have even found that employees work better together when they get a glimpse into their colleagues’ home lives while using these apps. Seeing a cat in the background or the baby’s toys on the floor humanizes them and gives them something to relate to. 

Employers and Employees Will Focus More on Health and Happiness

Finally, if this year has taught us anything, it’s that health and happiness are important. Going forward, experts expect that more employers — and their employees — will focus on accommodating those things. If a person finds that he or she is happier working from home, they are likely to find a job that provides that. The same goes for the person who needs to be in that office environment each week. Working with your employees to meet their goals is a must to be competitive in 2021 and beyond. 

Renting Furniture Helps You Navigate These Changes 

Navigating and implementing these changes will take some time, trial, and error. And while CORT can’t give you a final answer on what’s coming next, we are here to help. Whether you think you’re considering decreasing your office space or looking to switch from an open office concept to something more private, we’re here to help. Furniture as a Service is about more than renting furniture, it’s a flexible solution for times exactly like this. You tell us what you need, and we’ll help with everything from space planning to installation. This gives you time to focus on running your business and coming up with a new plan for the future, while we make the changes you need right now. Visit CORT Furniture Rental to learn more.

Share Post