The rise of home working

As we adapt to living with Covid-19, the rise of home working and hybrid working models have dramatically accelerated, but will a more flexible approach continue unchecked, or will we see a return to more traditional working setups in offices across the globe?  


Christopher Kwek of Forward 50

Christopher Kwek is director of design and build practice Forward 50 that has delivered offices and retail environments for global brands including Universal Music, Warner Music, Lafarge Holcim and Adidas. In our International Voice of the Customer interview series, Christopher says the pandemic has made the sector more open to being flexible.

Forward 50-Christopher Kwek-Singapore-Voice of the Customer-IVC Commercial-Working from Home-Office Flooring-Adidas
Forward 50-Christopher Kwek-Singapore-Voice of the Customer-IVC Commercial-Working from Home-Office Flooring-Warner Music
Forward 50-Christopher Kwek-Singapore-Voice of the Customer-IVC Commercial-Working from Home-Office Flooring-Lafarge Holcim

Due to Covid-19, workplaces look different: sanitation stations are a firm fixture and people are spread out in sparsely occupied offices. Is this a temporary fix, or that it has lasting implications for the design of workspaces, reshaping our attitude to what makes a good work environment? 

Well, what is happening now, the demand for home working, is certainly nothing new. However, the pandemic has certainly taken everything up a gear. Before Covid-19, coming into the office five days a week was considered normal practice and companies were reluctant to let people work from home.

The hands of companies have been forced. Working from home became a necessity and companies quickly saw that productivity wasn’t adversely affected. Also, they quickly realised the model could actually provide financial benefit.

This means that companies are certainly taking a more critical look at office space. Smaller spaces with better flexibility and modularity are now the starting point. Rather than giving everyone their own desk, flexible desking makes sense for companies.  

Will we see a shift in designing an office? Will it be more focused on welcoming employees back after working from home and therefore give more attention to teambuilding and bonding?

Even though many employees are excited about a return to the office, it’s not to say that the old way of working should come back in full. Most people have found working from home beneficial in some respects and can see advantages in the flexibility it brings, certainly if not based at home full time.

As to the turning of offices into hubs that are place to hang out with colleagues, well, this may be a bridge too far. The office still needs to retain its primary function as a place to work.

Has there been a fundamental shift in our approach to workspaces? Will we see a more human focused approach to the space from the client, or will it return to a question of maximum headcount? 

Of course, we’re still early in the process of change so not everything is clear. A big shift in the office offering, say a shared office dedicated to two companies, is not something I’ve seen yet. Companies still want their own space where they can create somewhere that reflects their values and ambitions.

Office spaces might get smaller, but this reduction in footprint will be countered by advanced home setups or flexible offices located close to employee homes. The urge to gather all employees in city centres daily will come under increasing challenge.

Working from home is still the standard for many companies, but whether it will stay this way is hard to predict. Most have adopted a wait and see approach, so it is still open. However, it has certainly resulted in benefits for employees and companies alike.

People are now more open towards change. Where in the past certain things would be a firm no, nowadays there’s more flexibility. Let’s take a big boardroom. These are areas that aren’t used very often and are quite an inefficient use of space. Where clients used to say it’s absolutely necessary, there is now more flexibility and openness to new ideas. This is a pleasant result. 


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