Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, a common and generally acceptable opinion of the office space and work from home, among many companies and office space users, implied that offices represented a place of work, productivity and gathering of employees, while work from home was not introduced at all as a standard way of working. If so, it was used only by a small percentage of employees as one of the benefits that international companies offered.
With the pandemic, previous beliefs about the primary role of office spaces and the operating mode among leading global brands, local companies and employees have changed in a day, more precisely from the moment of the lockdown due to Covid-19 pandemic at the beginning of 2020. Thus, we have witnessed a remarkably rapid transformation to work from home globally. Many companies worldwide are asking themselves how to adapt to the situation in the fastest way possible while at the same time maintaining productivity and ensuring employees’ wellbeing and cost-optimization and maximally adapting office space to the new situation and future needs.
What options were implemented in the office segment during the lockdown?
- Work from home
- Reorganization of office space as a result of the implementation of necessary epidemiological measures
- Readjustment of the leased area due to a decline or increase in business revenues during the pandemic allows the physical distance between work stations.
How does permanent work from home affect employees’ mental health?
The most common way to maintain business continuity during lockdown was to introduce work from home. It turned out that many companies had been ready and able to quickly adapt to the new circumstances and digitalize their business in a short period of time. For some companies, work from home has continued since the lockdown from the beginning of 2020. Such working methods were more comfortable to keep than, for example, remodeling business premises, especially for companies with a large number of employees. In this regard, many companies in 2020 applied the so-called “wait and see” approach, which implies maintaining the current operating mode introduced during the pandemic without making strategic and long-term decisions on using the working environment.
Many studies reveal that employees feel isolated when working from home, primarily due to lack of social interaction with colleagues. An additional obstacle represents separating business and private time during the day, which has a long-term impact on employees’ mental health and wellbeing.
The future of office spaces
We expect that offices will continue to remain an essential factor in organizing work and maintaining a company’s identity, image and business strategy. New models and operating modes appeared in response to the pandemic. The pandemic itself accelerated numerous trends in the office sector and other segments of commercial real estate. The assumption is that working from home will not replace office work but will potentially become complementary to some companies to a greater or lesser extent. In the future, we expect that awareness of the high quality offices in relation to work from home will increase, and physically, offices will still remain a key factor in creating and retaining the corporate culture, mission and vision of the company.
We witnessed positive examples in specific sectors during the pandemic that showed resistance to the health crisis and continued to expand or open new offices throughout Croatia. One such example is Telemach Croatia, until recently Tele2, which showed flexibility and adapted its working environment to the new situation amid pandemic and lockdown, and in mid-2020, with Colliers’ and creative studio Brigada’s help, secured a new regional office in the city center of Rijeka. The office is primarily intended for a team of sales experts and is also an indicator of Telemach Croatia’s continued investment and support to the local community, even in these uncertain times.
During office design and furnishing, a specific focus was placed on creating a comfortable and stimulating work environment to ensure employees are located in the area with natural light, surrounded by plants and greenery. Soothing and pastel colors and green plants that contribute to the healthy and relaxed atmosphere were used in the interior. In addition, health and safety was ensured for all employees by Telemach Croatia since the company introduced necessary precautions following the epidemiological situation in all offices in Croatia, including in the new office in Rijeka.
The regional office of Telemach Croatia in Rijeka was designed as a functional workspace based on the concept of activity-based-workspace, which according to the results of many studies, proved to be the as one of the best since it provides maximum efficiency, connectivity among employees and teamwork. Parts of the office dedicated for common use and team interaction were specifically designed to provide an ultimate quality working environment for employees, and at the same time, a so-called silent zone was ensured to be used by employees for tasks that require silence and concentration.
The offices remain a crucial factor in doing business
Ways of working and communication channels have changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but what is left in common is that we are all social beings and want to stay in touch, whether it is in the office or through digital channels. Although sometimes separated, the interaction is more significant than ever; the offices are more dynamic and still play a crucial role in local and international companies’ businesses.