Offices Post Covid-19

What will be different when people return to the office?

Ready to return to the office?


How might offices change when people start returning to work after the Covid-19 crisis?

Changes Ahead

Some of these changes can be seen in China where office workers have been returning to their workplaces since mid-February 2020. Maintaining social distancing will be important and this is difficult in an open office environment. Many employees will be required to work from home where possible and we may see the return of individual office spaces or, at least greater separation between desks. Recent years have seen a growth in shared office solutions like WeWork but it is likely that many of the smaller collaborative offices may be forced to close in the short term.


There are also some people who may not be able to return to work – the most vulnerable may not feel safe even in the new office of 2021 and those who have to commute for long periods on public transport may feel it to be too great a risk. Simply reducing the numbers in the office will help.


Monitoring who’s coming and going from offices will be crucial and has been a key feature of China’s re-opening of workplaces. Not allowing visitors, no outside meetings, controlling where your employees go at weekends and while on vacation, thermal checks on entry to the building and restricting the use of air conditioning are just some of the measures taken to prevent the spread of the virus in companies. Meetings which do take place are often restricted to no more than ten people and only take place when necessary while other meetings will inevitably be held online.

Offices Post Covid-19 - greater use of teleconferencing apps like Zoom and Teams
Offices Post Covid-19 - expect quieter offices and more frequent cleaning

The End of Shared Office Spaces?

The reduction of shared utensils and stationery like marker pens, mice, projectors and remote controls is also being carried out in addition to frequent cleaning of frequently touched surfaces like desks, door handles, elevator buttons and printers. Staggering start and finish times at work can reduce the numbers of workers in one space at a given time.


In terms of office design and furniture, changes will include spacing desks further apart from one another, increasing the heights of dividers between desks and dividing areas in office canteens. Other ideas include greater use of fabrics which can be cleaned with bleach and faster internet connectivity to cope with increased usage of teleconferencing.


It’s not clear how long measures like these will last but companies will need to prepare for the return of their workers and safety must be paramount.