In this brave new post Covid-19 world what was previously considered a beautiful office suite complete with glass conference room and an open floor plan is newly imbued with a sense of danger. It is quite likely we will see a return to partitioning, or glass perspex screens in the short term to make existing office space immediately reusable.
But what about longer term? Work stations which had been facing each other might be turned around, the open plan could be carved up into small, individual offices and it seems likely that “hot desking” will no longer be so “hot” without frequent, deep cleaning of all work areas which is probably not economically viable or even desirable for most occupiers.
What about air conditioning/ventilation systems? We are likely to see a shift of emphasis from the energy efficiency of those systems to the health benefits and how to get more fresh air into buildings.
Office space will always be needed in some shape or form, it’s just that the shape and nature is likely to change as the new “normal” emerges and evolves and new statutory requirements are introduced. And let’s not forget that many people will not want to return to the office now, having demonstrated that they can work effectively from home. So whilst some businesses may be thinking of downsizing in order to cut costs, others may be considering “expanding” the space they need per occupant in order to achieve better (in terms of productivity) and healthier working conditions.
We can and should see this as a great opportunity for fit-out companies to sell innovative ways of rearranging office space to occupants, for occupants to sell those ideas to landlords as improvements to, often, tired office space long overdue a revamp and for occupants to entice new employees into their state of the art new office environment. We property lawyers can assist landlords in documenting those works in a licence for alterations.
There are lots of changes ahead but we cannot avoid change so let’s look for the positives instead as we all get back up and running.