Workplace Trends — today and in a post COVID-19 world


DUBAI — The future workplace will be a more dynamic, fluid and digitized environment, one that can answer multiple requirements with single, one-stop solutions.

While the present climate engenders quite a bit of uncertainty, it is CBRE’s view that the pandemic has only highlighted the areas where companies would be right to focus; wellbeing, flexibility and the adoption of present and future technologies to reduce frictions and increase efficiency and connectedness.

CBRE has identified seven overarching Workplace Trends that are impacting both tangible features of commercial spaces as well as having an impact on choices for both developers and occupiers:

A Tech-enabled Future

While technology has replaced the physical environment with a virtual one that is easily accessible, instead of viewing it as an ultimate disruptor, it should be looked at as a differentiator that is enabling workplace flexibility.

However, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, firms that may have been hesitant to adapt previously now have to pivot quickly to remain competitive. Brought on by the pandemic, offices will be adopting newer technologies to reduce common touch points.

Some tenants and landlords were beginning to track office usage with sensors, which determined heavily trafficked areas even before COVID-19. Beyond the outbreak, these same sensors could be used to monitor, track and determine which areas are most in need of deep cleaning, where density is too high, and which workstations are underused and could perhaps be repurposed.

The Work Environment

One of the top pluses or minuses cited by employees is their work environment, and specifically their physical environment. A flexible work environment is a key driver in companies retaining valuable talent. Worldwide 87% of employees are disengaged and the physical workplace affects employee job satisfaction with the top likes being: great co-workers; work environment and good benefits.

Important Building Characteristics

Another important and evolving trend is a focus on the aesthetics and amenities that make up individual office spaces. Reaffirming the importance of these aspects and redefining what individual workspaces within the office looks like will be top of mind for developers, owners and occupiers during this period.

Equally important is the ability to grow workspace as needed. Case in point is the current need for offices to adapt from open plan spaces to ones that exude the strictest hygienic measures while also enabling worker's ability to collaborate with colleagues safely.

Even in the wake of the pandemic, headquarters are not expected to become obsolete. Workers may visit their office less frequently, but when they do, it will be to collaborate and create with their colleagues, which will demand spaces that enhance productivity and cultivate creativity.

Branded Experience

As consumers begin identifying more with brands and incorporating them as part of their lifestyle, brand awareness and association becomes more important. Increasingly, local occupiers are starting to design their offices to be more in line with their organization's brand and values, combining architectural elements as well as digital branding to reflect the building’s tenants and the wider community.

Work/life Integration

Perhaps the most prominent trend now and for the foreseeable future related to the fluidity between one's workspace and living space, commercial and residential.

As more people conceive of their office space as an extension of their home and their homes as extensions of the office space, we see workplaces evolving to include additional elements to facilitate a better work-life balance and help to increase employee productivity.

New residential developments are creating entire common spaces devoted to co-working while others are designating alcoves within apartments to be used as an office space. However, despite the disruption from COVID-19, for many, home is for relaxation and family and not a permanent place to conduct their everyday work.

Remote Working

As we move past the initial phase of COVID-19, businesses are processing how the virus will have lasting impacts on how and where we work. It is important for firms to already be devising answers to the question of why employees go to an office and how often and for how long they should.

With more enhanced technological capabilities such as clear and concise platforms for messaging as well as a reformation in company culture that values trust and output versus physical presence, companies can quickly adapt to this new environment.

Maximization of Space

The current business environment is characterized by fast and frequent change, which is increasingly the case as businesses adapt to the post-COVID-19 environment. The opportunities for companies to remain agile in allocating or reallocating office space and for start-ups to have the ability to scale up quickly is important for landlords and tenants to consider.

As physical workplaces need to remain changeable, the increased flexibility of employees themselves is important. With the ability for employees to either work from a workspace at home or an alternative location, an office can be temporarily transformed if need be.

While increased space is important, the need for space to collaborate and innovate is just as important. Government regulation in many countries is mandating 2 meters' distance during meetings, which also means that hot desks and open office plans with individuals sitting close to one another may be a thing of the past.

As the global workplace is being reshaped, workplace design will begin to place more emphasis on choreographing the movement of occupants. Attitudes towards the physical workplace are being constantly challenged to be more flexible and collaborative.

And in order to prepare businesses for tomorrow, we must understand the attitudes and behaviours that will be driving the society of the future and with that, how the workplace shapes the culture and environments.

So, while the future workplace may include more automation, it’s crucial we strengthen and invest in the human elements of our work. — SG