How will Work from Home Shape the Future of the Office?

Colliers REview Singapore blog - The future of the office: Is work from home here to stay?

Integrating technology, sustainability and wellness into the future workplace.


The global workforce had become a part of the largest work-from-home (WFH) experiment this year, causing a dramatic disruption to the office working culture.

In a recent global ‘Work-from-Home’ Experience survey conducted by Colliers International, 82% of respondents say that they wish to WFH at least one day a week, but no one wishes to WFH for more than 3 days a week. While the data shows that productivity has maintained at reasonable levels, more respondents also stated that they missed being able to collaborate with colleagues in the office.

Related content: The Work-from-Home Experience in Asia Pacific report

 

How will WFH influence real estate planning in future?

COVID-19 and its global effects have proven that working from home can still enable business continuity. With employees now expecting some form of flexibility as part of their new work routine, WFH will be inevitably feature as part of business planning.

It is, however, important to note that WFH will ultimately become a supplement to, rather than a substitute for, the office.

While remote work can provide flexibility for employees, it cannot replace human interaction forever - the office will still play a significant role in maintaining a culture of belonging, collaboration, and innovation.

 

"It is important to note that work-from-home (WFH) will ultimately become a supplement to – rather than a substitute for – the office."

 

We expect the office of the future to be a combination of work choices and space options; a hybrid of remote and office work. The undeniable dependency on technology and flexibility in how and where people work has also become more prominent post-COVID-19. The digital workplace is no longer ‘nice to have’, but a necessity for organisations.

 

Defining your business’s workplace strategy post-COVID-19: Tech and specs to consider

The ability for organisations to maintain business continuity and activate WFH policies is heavily reliant on the availability of technology platforms. Technology is even more important in connecting people and businesses during circumstances that prohibit physical contact.

Colliers REview Singapore blog - The future of the office is work from home here to stay Temperature scanning
Technology combining biometric hardware such as temperature scanners will be commonplace

We believe that any occupier reconfiguring their workspace should consider adopting the following technological advancements wherever possible, to allow seamless connectivity between employees as well as significantly enhance workplace hygiene.

  • Biometric hardware/health screening point – temperature scanners at the point of entry
  • Contactless services – automatic door, contactless washrooms, pantry
  • Hygiene stations – automatic sterilisation system
  • Tenancy management systems – air quality monitoring, indoor humidity level, pantry temperature
  • Ventilation/Air filtration systems – use of UV light sterilisation
  • Increased spacing (reduce density and seating)
  • Workplace Strategy analytics – to help manage office seating arrangements by applying social distancing guidelines

 

"It’s a common misconception that any permanent increase in remote work will automatically result in a decrease in the amount of office space needed to accommodate employees."

 

Is de-densification the future of the office, post-COVID-19?

We expect a shift back toward providing employees with more personal space even in a post-vaccine world, as worries and social distancing expectations linger. In terms of overall space, square footage demand will likely remain stable — and in some cases may even increase, especially if the number of manpower stays constant.

It’s a common misconception that any permanent increase in remote work will automatically result in a decrease in the amount of office space needed to accommodate employees.

Colliers REview Singapore blog - The future of the office - The Work Project Capital Tower Flex Core model
A Flex and CoreTM model: CapitaLand's 'office of the future' strategy integrates a building's conventional office space with flexible space (Image: The Work Project Capital Tower)

In the current environment, the number of people using the space at any given time would be reduced. Alternatively, occupiers could consider a Flex and Core™ strategy to help manage uncertainty, allowing them to scale up or down their needed space in tandem with headcount movements and business objectives.

 

"While the office is here to stay, the functionality and the size would likely change in the short-term and the long-term."

 

Before the circuit breaker, office spaces were already a key factor influencing a company’s ability to attract and retain the best and the brightest. This will only become more important post-COVID-19.

 

Next steps for the workplace: Technology, sustainability and wellness

While the office is here to stay, the functionality and the size would likely change in the short-term and the long-term. The potential impact will differ from one organisation to another.

In the short-term, companies will have to safely allow employees to return to the office with efficient and effective social distancing measures in place. In the long term, it is imperative to be both proactive and reactive by understanding what the wide range of potential real estate solutions could be.

Colliers REview Singapore blog - The future of the office: Is work from home here to stay - Touchless entry
High-quality office buildings that incorporate technology, sustainability and wellness credentials will be in greater demand

Even after a vaccine for COVID-19 is developed and implemented, we expect a greater demand for high-quality office buildings that incorporate technology, sustainability and wellness credentials. These offices should be well-equipped to provide an environment that harnesses the power of in-person collaboration, along with added support for employees’ health and safety.

For a comprehensive checklist on questions to consider when planning for your future office as well as employees’ insights, download our Work-from-Home Experience APAC report.

 

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Rick Thomas

Executive Director

Singapore

As Executive Director of Occupier Services in Singapore, I have  over 20 years of experience in commercial real estate.  Based in Singapore, my responsibilities are focused on servicing the real estate needs of large multinational occupiers clients across Asia Pacific than span office leasing, industrial leasing and project management.

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