Offices of the future: What can we expect from office space post coronavirus?

(BPT) - Though most office employees are working remotely during this unprecedented time, there will be a time when the world re-emerges from COVID-19. What will office space look like then?

Despite concerns regarding more companies shifting completely to remote working, workspaces play an essential role and impact companies in numerous ways. According to a recent Bloomberg article, people are overworked, stressed and eager to get back to the office. It's much more than simply an address where people report for their job. An office can help define a company brand, promote safe employee engagement, underscore efficiency and even help boost retention and recruitment efforts, giving an organization an edge over competitors.

Workspaces are also constantly evolving. Just think about where and how your parents worked compared to where and how you work today. What's interesting is we were in the midst of a dramatic shift in the types of amenities that companies desire for their workplaces, largely driven by the millennial workforce and preparing for Gen Z, which is just now entering the workforce. This shift is now experiencing its own shift as companies work to comply with social-distancing mandates and create safer workplaces that limit the transmission of COVID-19.

KBS, one of the nation’s largest owners of office properties across the U.S., provides key insight into these demands and what the workspaces of the future may look and feel like as tenants go back to work.

Here are five potential ways office spaces of the future may evolve:

Reconfigured Use of Space

We will begin to see interior office designs evolve to incorporate more space between workstations, as well as unique ways to break down density throughout a building.

Office owners will be challenged to deliver environments that are safe, aesthetically pleasing and still provide that collaboration and camaraderie that tenants want. We will likely see significant innovation within office space designs over the next year as office owners reconfigure spaces to inspire collaborative environments, as well as maintain a safe distance.

Smart Tech and Touchless Amenities

Office owners will likely begin implementing touchless amenities into many office properties across the U.S. This includes items such as touchless elevators, automatic doors, faucets and possibly incorporating voice command for frequently used items within a building in order to limit the transmission of illness.

These features will be important in our current environment; however, they will likely become commonplace as we move further into the future. Companies and their employees want environments that put their health top of mind. Smart tech and touchless features are an easy way to do this.

Integration of Health Focused Materials

Beyond touchless features, we will also see office spaces incorporate more antibacterial materials into office designs. Office property owners will be more selective in the materials used in order to further limit the spread of illness in the future. Office spaces may also incorporate antibacterial coatings on surfaces, as well as more sanitation stations throughout a building.

Additionally, electrostatic cleaning is gaining popularity. This method uses an electrostatic machine to spray all surfaces including chairs, keyboards, telephones, carpet, kitchen appliances, counter tops, file cabinets and door handles; covering all surfaces and in a quicker fashion. This method is compliant with CDC guidelines for COVID-19 cleaning.

Increase in Concierge Services

While concierge services and service-based amenities were a growing trend in office space prior to COVID-19, we will likely see an increase in concierge services, especially those that incorporate contactless options such as food delivery, dry cleaning lockers and other services that make everyday life easier.

In fact, for the KBS office property in Chicago, Accenture Tower, we created a customized app that easily connects tenants and their employees with surrounding amenities. The app includes the ability to order food directly through the app, limiting contact and the need for employees to leave the building.

More Customized Space

The shift to remote working for all employees and processes has allowed them to identify what is working and what’s not. This renewed understanding of their business operations will result in more demand for customized office spaces that fit companies’ specific needs, and they will be looking to landlords to provide it.

KBS, as a forward-looking office owner, truly understands how to deliver these customized spaces, even when tenants aren’t able to visualize it themselves. In fact, prior to COVID-19, KBS consistently built spec space without a committed tenant.

At District 237, a KBS client portfolio property in San Jose, California, we repositioned an entire building, 100,000 square feet of spec space. It was an extremely progressive strategy that was successful and something we would definitely consider doing again if it was the right fit for the property. The reason we were able to do this is because we look at every property on an individual basis and what that specific property's needs are, as well as the surrounding community, demographics, tenants, etc. We would apply these same principles in customized space today, also taking into account shifts in needs based on COVID-19, ultimately delivering an in-demand space that tenants want. For more information and to see other office properties from KBS visit kbs.com.

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